By Claire Byun
A popular Mid-City Bar is at the center of controversy after pro-monument protestors say they were refused service by bar staff. The bar’s staff, however, said they haven’t refused anyone, but have been barraged with negative reviews by those supporting the Confederate flag.
The Holy Ground, a popular local bar on the corner of Canal Street and South Jefferson Davis Parkway, has received poor online reviews from pro-monument protestors camping out at the Jefferson Davis Monument, staff say. Those protestors say the bar has refused them service and “trash talks” them while “liquoring up the enemy.”
Anny Poirier, long-time patron of Holy Ground, said the bar hasn’t refused service to anyone but does require customers to purchase something before using the restroom. She also acknowledged there are some patrons – not regulars – who stand outside the bar and “egg on” the protestors.
“I understand [the protestors] are frustrated that people are yelling at them,” Poirier said. “It’s not us – not the staff or the regulars – it’s just a public space, and anyone can be an a**hole.”
Protestors, on the other hand, said the bar’s staff have refused to serve monument supporters who have attempted to purchase food or drink. There’s no public bathrooms near the monument, so protestors said they attempted to purchase a drink at the bar to later use the restroom.
Arlene Barnum, from Oklahoma, said Holy Ground staff shooed the protestors away.
“They said we weren’t welcome here,” Barnum said.
John Latour, Holy Grounds manager, said the staff haven’t received any verbal threats and are making their best efforts to treat everyone the same, regardless of their positions on the monument. Latour said the bar is trying to serve everyone equally and keep everyone inside the bar safe, while operating business as usual.
Barnum said she “knows the rules,” and understands everyone must be a paying customer to use the bathrooms. That’s why she attempted to purchase a Coke, but was refused by staff, Barnum said. She said she was surprised by the refusal, since she expected the business to remain neutral.
Porier reiterated that staff have never refused service to anyone, and welcomed a group from the pro-monument protests earlier this week.
“We know there are people who sit over there and don’t like us, but we never thought it would be staff,” Barnum said.
“It’s just upsetting, coming from people who don’t even know us or this place,” Poirier said.
Cleo Jenkins, a protestor from New Orleans, said she wasn’t surprised by the alleged refusal. She said the protest group doesn’t venture across the street near Holy Ground and has found other restrooms to use, if necessary.
Jenkins encouraged other protestors to refrain from drinking during their stay in front of the monument, since mixing alcohol and protests “never leads to anything good.” Barnum said while none of the protestors go to Holy Ground anymore, the alleged refusal is a civil rights concern.
“It’s something that needs to be addressed,” Barnum said.
Holy Ground’s Yelp page has noted at least three bad reviews over the past few days bemoaning drunk regulars, bad food and “discrimination against the public.” A post of the “We Support the Confederate Flag” Facebook page – which has posted live videos from the Jeff Davis protest, urges followers to “Crush [Holy Ground] on Yelp now to kill their business.”
“F*** them if they aren’t going to take our money (which I’m against, boycott, but sometimes convenience is a necessity), deny us service, liquor up the enemy while trash talking us, and being the home base for the anti-fa at Davis Monument,” the post goes on to say.
But locals have counteracted those bad reviews with positive posts of their own. One reviewer warns readers to not let “the out-of-town Confederate Flag-lovin’ entitled snowflake protestors fool you.”
Holy Grounds staff deactivated the bar’s Facebook page early Sunday morning due to the influx of negative posts from people out of town, Latour said. The bar’s staff haven’t refused anyone service, Latour reiterated, and regular patrons haven’t threatened those supporting the monument. The bar hasn’t taken a position on the monument controversy and staff said they just want everything to return to usual.
“We just want the peace, we just want to not be part of this anymore,” Poirier said. “We’re just unfortunately situated near it.”