Skip to comments.Five Points bar criticized after black staffers let go, customer turned away
Posted on 08/18/2018 12:23:15 PM PDT by yesthatjallen
A Five Points bar became the target of social media protests last month after the manager said he was fired because the owner believed the business had become too dark.
Josh Sutton, the former manager of Moosehead Saloon on Devine Street, said he received a text message from the owner saying that whatever is happening to the crowd shift, I want it to stop now. Its gone too far. I will bring in a entire need (new) staff if needed.
In a followup coversation, the owner, Matt Shmanske, said the business was becoming too dark, Sutton told The State.
Shmanske, who also owns several other bars and restaurants in Columbia, did not respond to several requests for comment from The State.
Suttons firing was one of several incidents reported by former employees and customers at Moosehead that drew criticisms from them and others on social media:
▪ Immediately after Sutton, who is white, was fired in early July, the entire staff was ordered to reapply for their jobs; although at least two African-Americans were invited back, none of them has returned;
▪ An African-American customer was denied entry because of a dress code ban on solid-color shirts. The dress code has since been removed;
▪ Shmanske complained to staffers that the bar was playing too much hip-hop music.
Crowd shift at Moosehead Sutton had been the bars manager for almost two years. In a 2017 social media post, Shmanske called Sutton a member of his dream team and part of the hardest working staff he knew.
But one day in late June, Sutton got the text about a crowd shift around 1 p.m.
In the followup call, Shmanske said Moosehead was getting too dark, Sutton says. Sutton said the owner told him the bar was attracting more black patrons than Shmanske wanted and had too many black people working there.
He said they (the bouncers) were all trash and didnt work, Sutton recalls. Depending on the time of year, the bar had between 12 and 15 bouncers, including eight to 10 African-Americans, according to Sutton. The bar had about seven bartenders, including three African-Americans.
He was like you dont have the people in the bar that I want in the bar, Sutton said. There was no need to carry on the conversation anymore. I told him Im not going to fire anybody because of their skin color. Youre going to have to fire me if you want that done.
Thats what happened. On July 2 Sutton was fired, the former manager said. The rest of the staff, including the nine black bouncers and three black bartenders, were told to fill out applications for employment again, even though they worked at Moosehead already, according to six former and current employees of Moosehead.
If a person got a call back, he or she was still working at the Five Points bar. Employees who didnt get a call back werent employed anymore. When the whole process was done in July, at least two were asked to return, but only one was considering returning.
The diversity of the current staff could not be determined.
Moosehead is just one of the bars Shmanske owns in Five Points. The others are Thirsty Parrot and Latitude 22. In 2015, he received an award from the Five Points Association for renovations and beautification efforts at Lattitude 22.
He also owns Vista Union in the Vista and Burger 77 Tavern on Devine Street.
In a 2016 article by The State, Shmanske said he thought Moosehead Saloons rock n roll, country western theme was a great idea in Five Points. I thought it was an untapped market, he said at the time.
The too dark comment spread among Mooseheads employees and the tight knit community of Five Post service industry workers. Trent Brown, a former Moosehead employee who ran the bars social media efforts, posted about the alleged words spoken between Shmanske and Sutton on social media. The comment also was posted on Twitter and Instagram with screenshots of Shmanskes crowd shift quote and the assertion that he would bring in an entire new staff if Sutton didnt do something about the changing patronage.
The same post got viewed by almost 400 people on Snapchat. Screenshots from that social media account began to be reposted by other Snapchat and Instagram users.
One Twitter user who posted the screenshot against Shmanske said be careful what you support, and know who youre giving your money to. if you go out tonight and from here on out to 5 pts do NOT go to Moosehead, be the change you wanna see in the world.
The Tweet gained more than a hundred interactions.
Brown, who also was in charge of the business promotions, used to help bring in DJs to the club six nights a week. He quit in protest of Suttons firing.
You still got black people going to Moosehead, Brown said. Youre giving your money to someone who doesnt want you there. I didnt want that to happen.
Dillard Trapp, a former bartender at Moosehead whos black, got a call back and interviewed after the rehiring process. He decided he wouldnt be working there. The place used to be a pretty cool environment, he said. But with all of what hes heard and the staff being changed out, Trapp says, I dont want to be a part of it.
Trapp doesnt see any reason Sutton or any other employees should have been let go. Any issues with the bar were minor, Trapp says.
Marcus Hughes agrees.
Hughes, who is black, started working at Moosehead Saloon in October 2017. He became the head bouncer, and by February he was helping to hire much of the staff that was eventually let go. The bar had been doing well before Suttons firing, Hughes said. They didnt have a bunch of fights and sales were good. Still, he didnt get a call back to work at Moosehead.
I dont see any reason I would have been let go, Hughes says. I wasnt late. I did my job and made sure everything was done. There wasnt any viable reason for Josh and everyone else to get fired.
One other black bouncer was called back but refused to return after he heard about the allegations against Shmanskey, according to former and current employees. At least three other staff members left in solidarity with Sutton before the firing and rehiring process began.
Sutton says that during the conversation in which he was fired, Shmanske mentioned drug activity in the bar. Sutton and others said some Five Points bar patrons sometimes use drugs, but Moosehead had less of that activity than other bars. Under his management, the bar had rules and protocols to deal with with drug use, the former manager says.
From January to July, Columbia Police Department responded to six incidents at Moosehead Saloon ranging from simple assault, which could be a person saying theyll hurt someone without doing it, to a couple of underage drinking charges against people with fake IDs.
Comparatively, the Carolina Pour House, which was shut down last year as a nuisance by the city, allegedly had served alcohol after hours 10 times, underage customers were caught six times with fake IDs and it was the site of fights more than a dozen times, according to police records from July 2016 to March 2017. None of the police incidents at Moosehead involved drugs.
Sutton said the staff at Moosehead worked hard to make the place a good bar for anyone looking for the Five Points experience.
Everybody that came there, we built off friendships and how we treated people, Sutton says.
The only reason he had to give was, 'it's my bar and I decide what music is played'.
The location is Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia is the site of Riverbanks Zoo, a really nice place, and some cool historic cemeteries.
In the end, they close.
Just play Country and Western music only. That should send them scurrying for the exits.
Maybe the neighborhood changed? Sounds like the guy is shooting himeself in the foot so-to-speak. Didn’t complain about the amount of business or profit, just the the skin color of his customers. Stupid. And if he didn’t like the music, since he owned the place, why not change it? Anyway, the idiot will deservedly be out of business before the end of the summer. Good riddance.
A non story, one of the black employees was asked back and refused. Moving on.
To be fair to Mr. Shmanske (the owner), the only source for his alleged remarks is a now-former employee. There may be a grudge involved.
That said, the whole thing does seem like an ill-judged business move.
I have no idea about the neighborhood, myself. The zoo and the cemetery (and road construction, gah) exhaust my experience of Columbia. I posted mainly to save others the trouble of figuring out where the events occurred.
I no longer listen to Country and Western but did when I was young but your remark is Racist and wrong!
That may be the issue.
The owner may have not clearly set the rules about which music should be emphasized. He could have asked for a general mix of pop music.
The black manager may have used his own discretion to play more hip hop because that's what HE liked.
Face facts. Hip hop will attract a specific clientèle just as country & western or heavy metal would.
If the manager was stressing hip hop and the clientèle changed dramatically I can see how the owner may take issue.
If that's the case the owner should have made it clear what music he wanted played in his bar. He didn't have to give any other reason than to say it's his bar.
The manager was white. It says so in the article.
Country and Western are the only two kinds of music anyway.
What kind of music do you usually have here?
Yes, you're correct. That slipped by me.
Sorry for my confusion.
I haven’t been to Five Points since last century. With the frequency it’s been in the news lately, I’d say things have changed
Modern journalism is difficult.
Dress code ban on solid-colored shirts?
Columbia is where you get sent when you’ve been bad but Hell is full.
Columbia was where people from Charleston went for better weather and healthier conditions. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
A bar gets shut down when it becomes a problem for the police. There was a bar next to UNC-Greensboro that started to have some trouble. So they started adding Beach Music Night and Country Night.
We had a hip-hop club here and it got shut down quickly. Too many brawls and shootings. And we are a small town in the Appalachian hills.
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