WASHINGTON – A Northeast D.C. bar was forced to remove a cocktail it named after a blunder by former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, called “Marion Berry’s Dirty Asian Summer Punch.”
The Pug, which featured the drink, took a decidely different direction than a statement on its website which states, “No idiots. No bombs. No shooters. No specials. No politics.”
Barry made a racially charged comment about Asians after winning the Democratic primary to sit on the D.C. Council representing Ward 8.
The bar’s owner, Tony Tomelden, who is part Filipino, tells WTOP he thought it was a clever way to make sure the insensitive remarks didn’t get swept under the rug. But someone filed a complaint, bringing it to the city’s attention.
Thursday, the city’s Office of Human Rights delivered a notice to Tomelden deeming the name of the drink “racially offensive.”
The notice requested the drink be removed from the menu within 72 hours or the bar would be fined $10,000.
“Anytime the government threatens that the people comply, the first amendment takes a hit,” says Georgetown Constitutional Law Professor Susan Low Bloch.
She sees that as a larger problem, “‘You either stop or we will do something either civily or criminally,’ that’s a first amendment threat.”
Tomelden decided to get rid of the drink rather than face a civil investigation.
Later in the day, the city’s office of Human Rights released this statement:
“The DC Human Rights Act provides us with jurisdiction in places of public accommodation, such as The Pug. Because our Office received complaints expressing discomfort with a sign they believed was racially offensive, we reached out to the owner to explain that an inquiry could be initiated to determine whether the sign constituted racial or national origin discrimination. That inquiry may or may not have found the sign a violation of the DC Human Rights Act, but the owner taking down the sign prevented the need for that inquiry.”
WTOP’s John Aaron contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)