Judge: You have to bake that cake, but not serve a beer to someone in a MAGA hat

A strange story out of Philadelphia which has been brewing since shortly after President Trump was inaugurated and has now culminated in a court decision. Greg Piatek, an accountant from Philadelphia, was in New York City to visit the 9/11 memorial in January of 2017. After the tour, he went to a local watering hole for a drink. Unfortunately for Greg, he was wearing his bright red, Make America Great Again hat. He was promptly informed that he would not be served because of the hat (and his political views) and was physically removed from the club. That prompted a discrimination lawsuit which was finally heard this week. According to the judge, Greg can just go pound sand. (New York Post)

A Manhattan judge ruled Wednesday that there’s nothing “outrageous” about throwing the president’s supporters out of bars — because the law doesn’t protect against political discrimination…

“Anyone who supports Trump — or believes in what you believe — is not welcome here! And you need to leave right now because we won’t serve you!” Piatek claims the staff of The Happiest Hour on West 10th Street told him after he and his pals complained about the rude service they were getting from a bartender.

So he sued in Manhattan Supreme Court, claiming the incident “offended his sense of being American.”

But on Wednesday, when the bar’s lawyer, Elizabeth Conway, pointed out that only religious, and not political, beliefs are protected under state and city discrimination laws, saying, “supporting Trump is not a religion” — Piatek pivoted.

Considering all of the activities which the courts believe they can force business owners to participate in (or the customers they must serve) this no doubt sounds like something of a discontinuity to some of you. But unfortunately for Greg, the judge is probably right. In terms of who you can deny service to, the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in any privately owned “places of public accommodation” (which includes bars and restaurants), but only on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. These are considered “protected groups” who can’t be denied service on that basis.There is no assured protection against denial of service based on political beliefs.

Some states or municipalities have additional protections built in for things like sexual orientation, and people with disabilities are protected in all states under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But, again, nothing about political orientation. In New York City, the only specific, municipal laws apply to religious freedom and sexual orientation. That basically leaves no wiggle room for Greg to pursue his case further.

So basically, when you see a sign at a bar or eatery which says “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” that’s true, but only to a certain extent. They can enforce dress codes for purposes of either setting a particular formal standard or for health and sanitary considerations. But those rules must be applied consistently. The bar in question couldn’t throw Greg out just for wearing a ballcap, for example, unless they banned all ballcaps. But that wasn’t their basis for the action.

So the “good news” (assuming you think there’s any to be had) is that if you’re a conservative who owns a bar, you can throw out everyone wearing a Hillary Clinton t-shirt while allowing in people wearing NRA or Donald Trump shirts. But then you’re being pretty much as stupid as the owner of this bar in New York City. It’s the same as with all the companies who get caught up in boycotts for jumping into social and political debates. As soon as you pick sides, you immediately risk wiping out about half of your potential customer base. If you want a resolution to the situation with that bar in New York, make sure that everyone in the area knows that they don’t welcome anyone with the slightest bit of conservative values. That will be enough to steer virtually all of them away. And even in a place as liberal as the Big Apple, the food and beverage market is so competitive that nobody can afford to lose a significant slice of market share and hope to survive. Rather than running to a judge you could probably just run them out of business.