SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The ownership group of multiple bars in downtown Salt Lake City issued an online apology following a racially-charged comment from one of their family members. They also pledged to donate $10,000 to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Screenshots sent to ABC4 News showed that the controversy began on Saturday when Brandi LeCates commented on a FaceBook post about peaceful protesters covering their faces. Her statement said its part, “Black lives don’t matter anymore than anyone else!!!! Always the same [expletive] loons! Bunch of [expletive]!”
LeCates is married to one of the members of the Bourbon Group, who own Whiskey Street, Bourbon House, and White Horse.
Following online backlash, LeCates deleted her account after issuing a public apology that said in part, “My comment was a misguided attempt at trying to attack the argument of the others in the conversation […] I promise that i will keep my political differences with others in a more civil manner.”
Sunday morning, management with Whiskey Street posted a statement on their FaceBook page that stated in part, “The comments that were made are more than disrespectful. They are insulting and ignorant of black lives, history, and the continual movement to fight for equal rights and treatment.”
The statement went on to say that the Bourbon Group is comprised of multiple owners and the opinions expressed by LeCates does not align with their establishment as a whole. But acknowledged they must take responsibility due to association. They also pledged to donate $10,000 to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It was long overdue. And we apologize for that too,” the statement said. “We are ashamed to be associated with the statements. To be associated with hate. It is unacceptable. We apologize. With everything we have. We promise that we will work harder to support our community and the nationwide movement.”
The controversy, however, prompted former employees to come forward with reports of alleged mistreatment from management.
“Their response felt like a band-aid over the wound. It doesn’t feel genuine one bit. You can’t throw money at a problem when there’s a deeper issue there. We felt empowered and strength in solidarity in sharing each other’s stories because I think a lot of us thought we were alone in our experiences. Turns out there are many people who have experienced what we have,” they said.
Two of them, who agreed to speak to ABC4 News under the condition of anonymity said during their two to three years of employment, they had experienced or witnessed racist behavior, sexual harassment, and verbal abuse that were ignored or perpetuated by management.
“It was a very toxic place to work. There was sexism, misogyny, racism, and even assault happening,” one of them said. “I was calling my fiancé regularly during my shifts, crying, saying I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t have it in me to fake it to my managers or customers.”
That’s why, they said, they weren’t surprised by LeCates’ comments.
“We have seen her commenting on other people’s posts before, saying inflammatory things,” they said. “We want the community, the public, and patrons to know what values they’re supporting when they spend their money at Whiskey Street, Bourbon House, or White House. They are supporting a business that cultivates a toxic environment for their employees.”
Whiskey Street’s management declined a request for an on-camera interview and referred us back to their statement on FaceBook. In regards to the allegations from former employees, they said in an e-mail to ABC4 News that they were “not true.”