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South Carolina bar manager says he was fired because staff became ‘too dark’

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A South Carolina bar is under fire after a manager said he was fired because the owner thought the staff was becoming “too dark.”

Josh Sutton, the former manager of Moosehead Saloon in Columbia, told The State newspaper for a story published Saturday that he was fired over the number of African-American employees and customers inside the bar.

Sutton said he received a text message from owner Matt Shmanske saying that “whatever is happening to the crowd shift, I want it to stop now. It’s gone too far. I will bring in a entire need (new) staff if needed.”

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Shmanske later told him that the business was becoming “too dark,” Sutton said, adding that the bar was attracting more black customers than Shmanske wanted. As manager, Sutton said he was also told that the Moosehead had too many black people working there.

“He said they [the bouncers] were all trash and didn’t work,” Sutton told the newspaper.

Depending on the time of year, the bar employees between 10 to 15 African-Americans, he said.

“He was like ‘you don’t have the people in the bar that I want in the bar,’ ” Sutton said of Shmanske. “There was no need to carry on the conversation anymore. … I told him I’m not going to fire anybody because of their skin color. You’re going to have to fire me if you want that done.”

Shmanske fired Sutton, who is white, in July despite the owner previously calling him a member of his “dream team” and part of the “hardest working staff” he knew, according to the newspaper.

The entire staff was then immediately required to reapply for employment. At least two of the black employees were asked to return but neither of them did, The State reported.

Shmanske did not respond to several requests for comment from The State.

The incident was the latest concerning the bar that has caused blowback online, the newspaper noted.

A Confederate flag also used to hang above the DJ’s stage at the bar as recently as September, Sutton said. Shmanske resisted calls to bring it down so Sutton said he did it instead.

A black man named Malcolm Bevel also said he wasn’t allowed into Moosehead in late April because he was wearing a solid-color shirt, apparently a violation of the bar’s dress code then. Bevel and a friend both said that a white man who was also wearing a solid-color shirt was let in.

Bevel said he was told he couldn’t enter because of “the color of my shirt but really it was the color of my skin … My issue is not with the code but the equity of its application.”

Comments against the dress code flooded the bar’s Yelp and Trip Advisor review pages, as well as their social media. The dress code has since been removed, The State reported.

Tags Bar Columbia Moosehead Saloon racial bias Racism South Carolina South Carolina

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