Two assistants to North Carolina legislators said they were threatened by a stranger at a downtown bar Friday after the stranger asked whether they were gay.
Now the owner of the bar, The Architect Bar and Social House, is doing damage control in response to a flood of social media posts critical of the business.
“All are welcome at The Architect and (we) intend to keep it that way,” Jon Seelbinder said. “We can’t control other people but do our best to defuse situations. ... We by no means support or condone any sort of discrimination or harassment. ... Our job and main priority is to keep our guests safe and as happy as possible. We take these accusations very seriously.”
Jeff DeLuca, legislative assistant to Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, said in a Facebook post on Saturday that he and Michael Wilson, assistant to Rep. Chaz Beasley, were approached by a man in his mid-to-late 20s at the Architect Bar on Hargett Street downtown. DeLuca and Wilson had been dancing in a group at the bar to celebrate a friend’s new job, DeLuca wrote.
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The man asked Wilson and DeLuca whether they were gay “and indicated that he wasn’t OK with that,” DeLuca wrote.
DeLuca said he and Wilson tried to walk away and told the man his issue with them wasn’t their problem, but the man “stepped toward me, pounded his fist into his hand and said, ‘Well, it’s about to be.’”
DeLuca said he and Wilson told bar security that they had been threatened, but when the security staffer returned, he said the man had denied threatening them. The security staffer told DeLuca and Wilson, both of whom are gay, to “stay away from” the man, DeLuca wrote.
DeLuca and Wilson left immediately and contacted the bar by phone and on Twitter to report the incident.
When Wilson tweeted at the bar, a security employee responded, “Save the drama for your mama,” DeLuca said.
Seelbinder then took to Twitter, responding to people who were critical of his business because of the incident.
“The situation is 100 percent against our moral code and ethics,” Seelbinder wrote on Twitter, adding that he was in California over the weekend and apologizing for not responding to the incident immediately.
DeLuca and Seelbinder said they plan to meet about what happened. “I’ve gotten the impression that had he been around this would’ve gone a lot differently,” DeLuca said.
DeLuca said he and Wilson did not file a police report about the incident.
Seelbinder said his business’ reputation is being damaged online as negative Yelp reviews and other comments roll in.
“At this point, we’re getting bullied,” Seelbinder said in an interview Monday. “And it’s from some people who have never set foot in our business; that’s the frustrating part.”
Some are calling for the firing of the security employee who Seelbinder said “spoke out of line” in his tweet to Wilson. Seelbinder wouldn’t say whether the employee was going to be fired or not. He said he would handle the issue internally.
Others have accused him of employing homophobic people.
“That’s absolutely not true,” Seelbinder said. “No one here has any issue with anything to do with that. ... We have gay weddings, gay employees. That’s not what we’re about. We’re accepting of everyone and we take everyone’s safety very seriously. This is our livelihood.”