‘No Zionists’ policy from Salt Lake City bar prompts DABS complaints

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office will not confirm whether it is looking into the bar, Weathered Waves, as requested by state alcohol officials.

(Jose Davila IV | The Salt Lake Tribune) Weathered Waves in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, March 6, 2024.

More than 70 people have reached out to state alcohol officials to complain about a new Salt Lake City bar’s announcement that it has a “No Zionists Allowed” policy.

A commission of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services awarded Weathered Waves its bar license on Feb. 29. Since bar owner Michael Valentine’s March 4 post announcing the ban on Instagram, the department has received 71 emails and an unspecified number of phone calls from people “voicing concerns” about it, said DABS spokesperson Michelle Schmitt.

All the emailed complaints to DABS were “from people concerned the business owner is wrongfully discriminating,” Schmitt said — while all but one of the phone calls made to DABS reflected the same sentiment. The sole other caller, Schmitt said, supported the bar’s freedom of speech.

The department on Wednesday asked for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to investigate. Reyes’ office will not discuss its response; a spokesperson declined to comment Friday.

Weathered Waves, at 158 S. Rio Grande St., is part of the Six Sailor Cider group, and specializes in locally brewed hard ciders. Valentine, who owns Six Sailor Cider and unsuccessfully ran for Salt Lake City mayor last year as a first-time candidate, ignited a social media firestorm after he announced the ban. It has since been reported on nationally and internationally, in outlets including The Daily Beast and The Times of Israel.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Weathered Waves bar in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, March 6, 2024.

After his initial post, Valentine wrote in a follow-up Instagram post that his aim is to ban all hate speech, and that, to him, “Zionism is hate speech” and “white supremacy,” adding that it “has nothing to do with the beautiful Jewish faith.”

With the post, Valentine thrust himself and his business into the complex and tense debate over the latest Israel-Hamas war, which began after a Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 that left an estimated 1,200 Israelis dead and about 240 taken hostage. More than 100 hostages were released in November during a weeklong cease-fire, The Associated Press reported. The Gaza Health Ministry reported Wednesday more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the ensuing conflict.

Schmitt, with DABS, pointed to a document on the agency’s website that lists violations for which businesses can be penalized. The most grave violations — for which a license could be revoked on the first offense — include selling booze to an intoxicated person, gambling or lewd acts on the premises, signing exclusive deals with a particular brand of booze, or refusing to allow law enforcement or DABS to inspect a licensee. Banning certain patrons is not mentioned.

A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said the group would not comment on “an open investigation.”

— This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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