‘Most Racist Restaurant in America?’ is in Kentucky, Alternet report alleges

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The alleged “most racist restaurant in America?” may be in Louisville, according to an Alternet report today, but it isn’t owned by one of Kentucky’s favored bourbon distillers.

Alternet posted a report today with a headline that asked, “Most Racist Restaurant in America?” In it, New York journalist Laura Gottesdiener reports on a lawsuit filed in Jefferson County, stemming from an August incident in which it is alleged that a Louisville establishment, the Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge, discriminated against a man and denied entry to African-American patrons.

Jefferson County Court records show a civil filing of Andre Mulligan V. Louisville Bourbon LLC.  Louisville attorney Kurt Scharfenberger confirmed in an email that he was representing Mulligan in the case, but no immediate copy of the suit was available Thursday night.

Gottesdiener suggests a boycott in response:

Mulligan is suing the restaurant  and its operating company, Cordish Operating Ventures, for violating the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. Meanwhile, I propose that the rest of Louisville—black or white—boycott the restaurant, and the rest of the country boycott Maker’s Mark. (Tennessee’s Jack Daniel’s’ is a decent, although slightly harsher, substitute.)”

Louisville’s WHAS reported on a Halloween incident at Fourth Street Live earlier this Fall that alleged discrimination. In 2009, Louisville’s Courier Journal reported on a lawsuit filed by a former employee of the same establishment, alleging she was told to discriminate.

Maker’s Mark bourbon fans have taken to twitter to defend the bourbon company (owned by Beam Global), which does not own the bar in question.

In a 2008 Louisvillehotbytes forum, Bill Samuels, Jr. explained the relationship and the name.

Samuels was writing in response to the complaint that several Louisville bars in St. Matthews had stopped serving Maker’s Mark as a protest/boycott, because of the perception that Maker’s Mark had gone into the bar business at Fourth Street Live, effectively putting them in “competition” with other local bar owners.

He wrote:

“It goes back 5 or 6 years ago when former Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong was trying to entice the Baltimore based urban development group, Cordish, to accept the challenge of helping him revitalize the downtown area by developing an entertainment district along 4th Street. The Mayor reached out to the business community – particularly those of us with strong local brands – to help by lending our brand name to an establishment within the district. Maker’s was chosen since it has a reputation as a premium Kentucky bourbon around the world. As an active member of our local Chamber of Commerce (having recently completed a term as Chairman), I jumped at the chance to help our community.

Cordish wanted to name one of the venues …”the Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge”. We said fine so long as 1. the lounge would be the finest bourbon bar in the country (we thought it ought to be in KY) and 2. all other fine bourbons produced in the commonwealth would be equally represented and that their respective master distillers would always feel welcome at the Lounge. It is also important to know that no money changed hands between ourselves & Cordish as a result of our allowing them to use the Maker’s name on the door. The Maker’s Lounge is totally owned by the Cordish Company…That is the story of why we got involved with the development of downtown Louisville thru lending our name of one of the venue’s in 4th Street Live.”

As of 6:30 pm, Maker’s Mark fans were swarming twitter, openly disparaging Jack Daniels (which is a Tennessee whiskey as opposed to a Kentucky bourbon), and begging the Maker’s Mark corporation and PR reps to issue an official response and clarification of the restaurant’s ownership.

A sampling of tweets read:

“Don’t buy this liquor for your holiday party.”

“I’ve been drinking @MakersMark for years. But will never have another drop if this article is true.”

“Hey. @MakersMark tell me this article about your lounge being racist isn’t true. I’m an ambassador but will boycott you.”

Updates to follow.

As of 10:30 p.m. the @makersmark Twitter feed had not mentioned the suit or the distinction between the Maker’s Mark Loretto, KY distillery (owned by Beam Global)  and the out-of-state restaurant group that operates the Maker’s Mark Bourbon Lounge in downtown Louisville.



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