While the intersection of alcohol and politics is usually a tempest of sound and fury, the everyday encounters at that crossroads seldom rate as newsworthy beyond the margins of a local police blotter. Occasionally, though, the stupid finds its way into the official record.
A Philadelphia accountant feels "humiliated, degraded, victimized, embarrassed and emotionally distressed" after he was refused service by a West Village bar on account of his pro-Trump hat. Greg Piatek, 30, claims he was denied drinks by multiple bartenders and servers at The Happiest Hour on January 28th because he was wearing a red "Make America Great Again" cap.
Now, as he suffers from "anxiety and severe emotional distress," Piatek is suing the bar and owner John Neidich for "egregious, unlawful, and discriminatory conduct."
Then the stupid starts to weep.
In his lawsuit against The Happiest Hour, Piatek recalls being shocked by the ordeal because of his "sincerely held set of beliefs in which he felt it was necessary to wear a particular hat in remembrance of the souls who lost their lives and as a symbol of freedom/free speech."
"Ignoring me because I'm wearing the hat is ridiculous," Piatek told the New York Post, which deems the incident discrimination "with a liberal twist." Attorney Paul Liggieri, who is representing Piatek in New York Supreme Court, told the tabloid that being kicked out of the bar for his MAGA hat was Piatek's "saddest hour."
The hospitality world is fraught with real challenges from within and from without. For all of the legal and regulatory burdens to which the service industry is subject, this brand of baseless lawsuit is an unnecessary drain on the time, money and goodwill of small businesses. For hospitality businesses in particular, where every customer is a critic, operators bend over backwards three times for their guests just to keep the doors open.
It's not my place to pass judgment on whether or not the staff in this case acted appropriately. However, when customer dissatisfaction spills into the courthouse, I'll stand up against that kind of garbage every day.
Aside from asserting a claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claim, which is plainly ludicrous, Piatek (through his attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group) insists that wearing his hat was not political speech but an expression of his "creed." By denying him service, Piatek claims that the The Happiest Hour violated New York human rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of his "creed." Again, this is laughable.
Obviously, wearing a hat bearing a slogan from a political campaign IS political speech. What's really galling is Piatek's claim that his hat is "a symbol of freedom of speech[...] a symbol of his creed." Creed, roughly translated to legalese, means religion. Is this alternative approach to language just a pathetic attempt to add color to a frivolous lawsuit or does Piatek sincerely believe that Don Jon is the Messiah and "Make America Great Again" is the Golden Rule? Either way - sad(!).
This case should be laughed out of court and Plaintiff's counsel ought to face sanctions - obviously frivolous, publicity-seeking lawsuits like this are the worst of our profession. This Office is committed to serving small businesses in the hospitality world and that includes swiftly handling nuisance suits so operators can devote their time and energy into doing what they love - serving others.
You can read the poorly-drafted complaint, which reads at times like an excerpt from a Bill O'Reilly novel, here (via Scribd).