If you’ve ever walked around an area known for its nightlife, you’ve seen them: handwritten signs outside bars on chalkboards or whiteboards with clever sayings designed to draw patrons in. Folks who walked past Bar Bar at City Market in Savannah, GA, on Friday night may never forget the sign they saw — or the controversy it has caused.
Someone took a photo of the sign, which read, “We like our beer like we like our violence, DOMESTIC,” and sent it to Cheryl Branch, director of Savannah’s Safe Shelter, Inc., and that’s where the firestorm began.
“I have 18 years of really bad stuff in my head,” she says. “I think it was just really poor judgement and bad taste.”
Her staff members sent her the photo.
“…as much domestic violence has been in the news, and then to see a sign…” she feels such a message has the potential to be damaging for domestic violence survivors.
So, she took to Yelp to post a review of the bar.
Bar Bar’s owner, David Thorne, emailed Branch directly and informed her that the sign was meant as a joke and that he didn’t personally approve of the sign but that he stood by it nonetheless.
He wrote: “It is obvious that you are reactionary, oversensitive, and can’t recognize the First Amendment rights of our staff.”
In the email, the owner says his bar had no intention of promoting domestic violence, and he would not have approved the sign but a female staff member wrote it without asking.
The bar had taken the sign down by Saturday, but the controversy remained, as Bar Bar dealt with plenty of complaints on social media from others who saw the sign. Thorne would not talk directly to the media, but by Monday morning, Bar Bar came back with its own defiant response.
In response, the bar posted this on their Facebook page: “To everybody who has a problem with the sign that was put up Friday night and have never been to, or won’t return to the Bar Bar: How about instead of wasting your time whining about a sign at a bar you take your TIME and MONEY and DONATE to SAFE Shelter! Stop the Violence by DOING something……not whining about it!”
Obviously, Bar Bar stands behind its employees’ First Amendment right to make dumb statements, but it may be too early to tell how much patrons will exercise their right not to spend money at the establishment.