SLC bar owner apologizes, promises policy change after Polynesian men denied service

Posted at 5:59 PM, Feb 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-19 19:59:26-05

SALT LAKE CITY – The owner of a bar in Salt Lake City is apologizing and promising changes in the way his staff is trained after two Polynesian men were denied service due to their race.

A video shot moments after the denial of service has been shared thousands of times online, prompting outrage over what many call a racist policy.

Geremy Cloyd, owner of Willie’s Lounge, has come forward to apologize for the incident.

“You can't go through what I’ve gone through the last couple of days and not learn anything,” he said.

Cloyd said he's been getting death threats and hate messages since Tuesday night, all stemming from outrage sparked by an incident in which two Polynesian men were turned away. The employee said it was a company policy, but Cloyd said the problem, which he takes personal responsibility for, stemmed from a misunderstanding.

He has since apologized and is pledging to provide sensitivity training for all of his employees. He said he instituted a policy aimed at giving employees the right to refuse service to anyone who they felt unsafe interacting with, but he said he did not communicate the details effectively. That policy is being removed.

“Anything that happened here is my fault,” Cloyd said. “I'm taking full responsibility for it. The staff is great. I screwed up on this by not training them better, by not providing the sensitivity training that we're getting now. I regret it. I wish I could take it back."

Cloyd is also meeting with leaders in the Polynesian community to listen to their concerns.

“I just want to get this out there, that, how deeply sorry we are, that we regret the incident completely,” Cloyd said. “We wish it wouldn't have happened. We wish we could take it back, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make it right.”

The two men tell FOX 13 News they are meeting with an attorney to discuss their legal options, but at this point they aren't sure if they will pursue any further action. They said they had no further comment on the matter until sometime next week.

A protest featuring participants performing the Haka, a traditional Polynesian war cry/dance, was planned for Saturday, but it is unclear whether that protest is still happening in the wake of Cloyd’s efforts to apologize.