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Mark Marlow, 51, wore the cap during a night out with his girlfriend, Gina Martin, on Friday. The couple ended up at local favorite Bahi Hut Lounge, where he claims an employee approached him and said that he would not be served because of his hat.
“I was not drunk, I was not loud, I was not using profane language, I was not creating a scene — nothing,” Marlow, a supporter of President Trump, told the newspaper. “They said it was just because of the hat.”
Marlow said he responded by shaking his head while the employee walked away. The same employee returned moments later.
”‘I can see you’re not going to go peacefully; if you don’t leave I’m going to call the cops,'” Marlow said he was told. “I told him to go ahead and do that.”
Marlow ended up leaving of his own volition — after waiting around 20 minutes with no service — just as Sarasota Police Department officers arrived. They told him that the bar had the right to deny him business, and Marlow confirmed that he has “no issues” with the officers.
But being kicked out by bar staff — who, Martin claims, repeatedly told her boyfriend “You’re not welcome here” — did sting. Marlow took his grievances to Sarasota GOP chair Joe Gruters, who called the incident “unacceptable.”
“As a community, we should reject these type of actions, as it will lead to more division and hostility on both sides,” Gruters, who also chairs the Republican Party of Florida, wrote on Facebook. “We live in the greatest country that has ever existed and this behavior should be considered unacceptable.”
The owner of the Bahi Hut Lounge, Jim Beck, has insisted that the drama wasn’t personal. In a statement to the Herald Tribune, he claimed that his employee was just enforcing the bar’s no-hats policy, which is stated on a sign near the entrance.
“I don’t know what to believe at this point,” Beck said. “Right in the foyer as you enter the bar it says no hats. [The employee is] saying what he told the gentleman very politely, very nicely, was no hats.
“I don’t know what to make of it, what to do,” Beck said. “The policy’s written right there. It’s engraved in wood paneling. I can’t beat them up for following the policy.”
Despite the no-hats policy, an apologetic Beck said his bar is “for everyone.”
“The management and owner strongly believes in non-discrimination,” he added. “[A] MAGA hat is as welcome as anybody else in the bar. If somebody takes an exception to it, please leave.”
Marlow, meanwhile, told the paper that he saw no such sign, and noted that another customer in a Pittsburgh Steelers hat was allowed to remain.
Marlow, who told the paper that other customers offered him their drinks out of sympathy as the drama unfolded Friday, does seem to have accepted the apology from Beck, whom he called “polite” in a Facebook comment.
“He stated that my statement of others in the bar wearing caps, was proven true due to security tapes,” Marlow wrote. “He once again apologized and offered to have me and the local GOP chairman at his establishment for some drinks. We will take him up on his offer. The owner has been very professional, and I find it hard for him to suffer because one of his employees went off track. I am hoping, by example, people can put animosity to the side, and see that people from different walks can get along. Possibly a pipe dream. I don’t know.”
Ultimately, he feels like the bar staff was wrong to single him out for his political beliefs.
“I feel like I have a right to wear that hat in public just as much as somebody can wear gay pride or Dreamer Act shirts or things I might not necessarily wholeheartedly endorse,” Marlow told the paper.
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