2 Polynesian men file lawsuit against Willies Lounge claiming racial discrimination

Posted at 5:35 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-23 08:52:42-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two Polynesian men have chosen to file a law suit against a Salt Lake City bar after they claim they were refused service because of their race.

"It’s the voice of our community saying this is not acceptable," said Jessica Andrew, the attorney representing Frank Maea and Stephen Wiley.

Maea and Wily were in the bar late on Feb. 16. After being denied service, they left, but posted video of their experience on social media. The incident spurred a public protest a few days later.

On Monday, the civil rights suit was filed in federal court.

"We’re hopeful that the owner of the company will come forward soon, reach out to us, and have a discussion," Andrew said.

The bar owner, Geremy Cloyd, has publicly apologized.  The day after the incident.

"We messed up last night a lot of times we get it right last night we didn't,” Cloyd said.

Cloyd said he told his staff they could deny services to large groups late at night. He said the policy was put in place after an incident with a group of Polynesians.

“I think this was a mistake more of ignorance than of racial hatred,” Andrew said.

Andrew characterized the lawsuit as righting a wrong. Other attorneys are more skeptical.

"Any time you have a civil rights claim you have provisions for damages and for attorney's fees," said Greg Skordas a Salt Lake City based attorney.

Skordas said proving damages could be a tough legal challenge.

"The bar owner has sort of fallen on his sword, accepted responsibility, sort of invite the people back, that there really aren't much in the way of damages," Skordas said.

The bar owner told FOX  13 News he could not comment on the lawsuit because he had yet to see it.