Two Polynesian-American men were enjoying a night of barhopping in Salt Lake City on Wednesday when they were suddenly refused service at a bar because of their race, the men told NBC News. One of the two, Frank Maea, began recording a video on his cellphone moments after he says they were told that the bar, Willie's Lounge, didn't serve Polynesians.
He posted the video on Facebook, where it became viral. As of Thursday, the video has been shared over 4,500 times.
"I’m just overwhelmed with all the love and support that’s been pouring out to us," Maea told NBC News. "This does not go for just us Polynesians, this is for every race. It just sucks because ignorance is still here."
According to Maea, he and his cousin Stephen Wily had been at a bar across the street the night of Feb. 17 when a bartender recommended they go to Willie's Lounge. When they got to the lounge, the men said the bartender checked their IDs before asking if they were Polynesian. When they confirmed that they were, Wily says they were asked to leave.
"We were just in shock," Wily told NBC News. "As somebody that has decency and courtesy, we walked out. ... It's 2016, I thought all that stuff was over with."
Maea says he posted the video to tell his friends not to go to the bar and didn't expect the kind of reception that followed.
"I really wanted to raise awareness that profiling, labeling, racist gestures were real, you know?" Maea said. "I've lived here in Utah for six years. I've never encountered anything like this in my life. I've never been treated like this."
The bar's owner, Geremy Cloyd, told NBC News that what happened was a mistake and that he trained his bartenders to refuse service to anyone that made them uncomfortable at night due to previous disruptions at the bar.
"Two guys were denied service when they shouldn't have been," Cloyd said. "We made a mistake, we have deep regrets that that ever happened."
Cloyd said he's planning to meet with leaders in the Polynesian community tomorrow afternoon and that he's unsuccessfully tried to get in contact with Maea and Wily.
"We have the most diverse crowd ever," Cloyd said. "We have Polynesians everyday. Our track record's proved we're not racist."