Utah agency calls for investigation into Salt Lake bar’s ‘No Zionists Allowed’ policy

Mar 6, 2024, 10:46 PM | Updated: 11:12 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services called for an attorney general’s investigation Wednesday over a bar’s “No Zionists Allowed” policy.

Early in the week, Weathered Waves, A Six Sailor Cider Bar, posted the stance that equated Zionism to hate speech.

“We are horrified by the ongoing genocide in Gaza and are even more horrified to see so many Americans ignore and rationalize ethnic cleansing,” a statement posted to Instagram read. “That is why we are pleased to announce we are banning all Zionists forever from our establishments. Zionism is hate speech, it is white supremacy and has nothing to do with the beautiful Jewish faith. We forever stand firmly with the people of Gaza and humanity.”

Owner Michael Valentine said in an interview with KSL TV that he stood by his business’s new policy.

“I think it’s, again, something we’d be happy to stand on the right side of history for,” Valentine said. “It’s important that this remains an inclusive space by banning all hate speech.”

The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services called on the Attorney General to investigate a local bar, Weathered Waves, A Six Sailor Cider Bar, after it posted a “No Zionists Allowed” policy. (KSL TV)

On Wednesday afternoon, the Utah DABS issued its own statement calling for an investigation of the matter.

“We have received several comments from members of the public with concerns regarding the business’ public statements,” the statement read. “Today, the department notified the Utah Attorney General’s Office so they may conduct an investigation on whether the business is violating discrimination laws. At the same time, the department is reviewing its statutory obligations and legal options for responding to discrimination at DABS licensed establishments. Again, the department takes allegations of discrimination seriously.”

The bar’s rule also has drawn criticism from members of Salt Lake City’s Jewish community, including from Rabbi Avremi Zippel of the Chabad Lubavitch.

“I think it is a smoke screen for open Jew hatred, I think it is antisemitic,” Zippel told KSL TV. “To say that anybody that possesses a political ideology need not even walk into the establishment — I think that’s a pretty significant jump from not tolerating hate speech.”

Zippel, whose synagogue operates the Yalla Kosher Utah food truck, said he didn’t understand the bar’s decision.

“We view food as a way to bring people together — not to divide them,” Zippel said.

Valentine said he had already received threats due to the rule, including to burn down his business, and the policy was not intended to discriminate against Jews.

“We’re not banning Jews — we love Jewish people,” Valentine said. He noted that some members of the Jewish community also hold anti-Zionist positions. “We’re not banning Jews, we’re banning Zionism. In the same way we’re not banning Christianity, we ban neo-Nazis and the KKK and hate speech.”

He also said the policy barred all hate speech.

“Not just Zionism, — we’re condemning neo-Nazis, white supremacists, transphobes, queerphobes, homophobes, sexists,” Valentine said.

Zippel disagreed. He said that did not appear to be the point of the business’s Instagram post announcing the move.

“I think we live in a world where most private businesses, certain government entities don’t tolerate hate speech,” Zippel said. “If you want to ban hate speech, go on your Instagram and put up a post that says ‘in our place of business, we will not tolerate hate speech.’ That’s not what the post says.”

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Utah agency calls for investigation into Salt Lake bar’s ‘No Zionists Allowed’ policy