A Philadelphia man claims in a lawsuit that he was refused service by a New York City bar because he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
Greg Piatek, 30, is suing The Happiest Hour and its owner, Jon Neidich, for its “egregious, unlawful and discriminatory conduct” during his January 28, 2017, visit to the West Village bar.
Piatek claims several bartenders denied him drinks because of the hat made popular by President Donald Trump’s campaign. He says a manager then told him, “I spoke directly to the owner and the owner told me that anyone who supports Trump or believes what you believe is not welcome here. And you need to leave right now because we won’t serve you.”
According to Piatek’s lawsuit, filed in New York state court on March 17, the bar’s bouncers escorted him and his friends out of the bar.
“In my opinion, the motto of The Happiest Hour seems to be: we will accept you, so long as you think exactly like us,” Piatek’s attorney, Paul Liggieri, of the Derek Smith Law Group, told Heavy. “The values displayed by the employees of The Happiest Hour are not the values of our nation. Our nation values acceptance and democracy. It seems to me that The Happiest Hour, however, values hypocrisy.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Piatek Says a Bartender Called Him a ‘Terrible Human Being’ & Said She Wouldn’t Serve Him
Greg Piatek claims in his lawsuit he went to the The Happiest Hour with a group of friends for drinks and dinner on January 28. He noticed the supervisory bartender, who was in charge of his section, was “purposefully and willingly ignoring (Piatek) and his friends,” according to the lawsuit, which you can read above.
Piatek said he first thought it was an “honest mistake,” but the bartender gave him a “lengthy death stare and then walked directly by them countless times over a period of fifteen to twenty minutes,” while serving others near their group.
After one of Piatek’s friends asked the bartender for a drink, he said the bartender asked, “Is that hat a joke?” Piatek asked her if she’d been ignoring them because of the hat, and she replied, “Yes, that’s my thing,” according to the lawsuit.
Piatek’s attorney wrote in the lawsuit that “despite The Happiest Hour’s employees refusing to serve Plaintiff Piatek on account of his beliefs and despite the shock to Plaintiff Piatek’s conscious as a proud American, the Plaintiff figured he would wait for a short while and order a drink from another bartender who was more accepting of people’s creeds and beliefs.”
While he was waiting, Piatek claims another female bartender came up to him and yelled at him, “Is that hat a joke?” The second bartender began to “berate” Piatek over his beliefs, the lawsuit claims.
“The bartenders referred to (Piatek) as a ‘terrible’ human being,” the lawsuit states. “After advising (Piatek) that he was a ‘terrible’ human being, The Happiest Hour’s bartender then proceeded to tell (Piatek) that she would not serve him.”
Piatek claims he saw the bartenders talking with one another and looking at him, and none served his group. He said they realized they were “being discriminated against on account of his sincerely held beliefs,” and asked the bartender to speak to her manager.
According to the lawsuit, she replied, “that will probably get me fired, but I guess that’s what people like you do.”
That is when Piatek says the manager spoke to the bar’s owner and informed him and his group they were no longer welcome there.
In an interview with the New York Post, Piatek said one of the bartenders told him, “I can’t believe you would support someone so terrible and you must be as terrible a person!”
Piatek told the newspaper he didn’t immediately understand why he wasn’t being served.
“Immediately it clicked. Ignoring me because I’m wearing the hat is ridiculous,” Piatek told the Post. “It’s really sad.”
2. He & His Friends Called Police After They Were ‘Left Outside, in the Cold’
Piatek says in the lawsuit that The Happiest Hour’s manager had the bar’s bouncers escort him and his friends out of the West Village hot spot after he complained.
According to the lawsuit, the bouncers surrounded the group “in an aggressive manner,” and one told him, “We are just doing exactly what the owner told us to do, and the only reason you have to get thrown out is because of what you believe and who you support.”
Piatek said after he and his friends were “left outside, in the cold,” another manager came to talk to them and said that The Happiest Hour didn’t want to serve people like him, but told Piatek what happened to him was wrong and he should “ask the police what he could do.”
According to the lawsuit, Piatek’s friend called police and two NYPD officers came to the restaurant. The officers, “were sympathetic, accepting and understanding of the Plaintiff’s situation, as one would expect from any New Yorker who respects others even if they are different.”
Piatek claims in the lawsuit that the officers told him the matter was not criminal and suggested they contact the Better Business Bureau.
Piatek said he shook the officers’ hands, thanked them for their service and the night ended.
His attorney, Paul Liggieri, of the Derek Smith Law Group, wrote in the lawsuit, “Piatek’s experience was perhaps the most discriminatory, humiliating and ‘Saddest Hour’ of his life.”
3. He Says He Was in the City to Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Wore the Hat as a ‘Symbol of Freedom of Speech,’ Not Politics
Piatek says in the lawsuit that he was in New York City with his friends to visit the September 11th Memorial Museum.
January 28 began as a “day dedicated to the memory of victims and fallen heroes of the September 11th, 2001, attacks,” for Piatek and two close friends.
Piatek’s lawyer writes in the lawsuit that his client wore the “Make America Great Again” hat, “not as a symbol of politics, but as a symbol of freedom of speech and as a symbol of his creed.”
According to the lawsuit, “Piatek had a sincerely held set of beliefs in which he felt it was necessary to wear a particular hat in remembrance of the souls who lost their lives and as a symbol of freedom/free speech.”
Piatek’s attorney said the bartender calling him a “terrible human being” left his client “feeling depressed and shocked; especially after (Piatek) had spent his afternoon at the 9/11 Memorial Museum and was simply trying to enjoy a memorable time with his friends in what is arguably the most accepting city in the world.”
Piatek claims the defendant’s actions made him feel “humiliated, degraded, victimized, embarrassed and emotionally distressed,” and he has “suffered and continues to suffer from anxiety and severe emotional distress” as a result of the “discriminatory and intolerable treatment” he received.
4. Piatek Works as an Accountant in Philadelphia & He Played Football at The College of New Jersey
Piatek is a Sewell, New Jersey, native and works as an accountant in Philadelphia at Deloitte & Touche, according to his Linkedin profile.
A graduate of Bishop Eustace Prep, Piatek then attended The College of New Jersey, where he played football.
Piatek was a linebacker at TCNJ in 2004 and 2005, according to the school’s website.
5. The Happiest Hour Has Not Responded to the Lawsuit & Has Received a Slew of Negative Comments on Facebook
The Happiest Hour and its owner, Jon Neidich, have not yet responded to the lawsuit in court or commented about it.
“This bar discriminates against TRUMP supporters. Fine, you’re in the village and 90% of your customers don’t care you discriminate. But guess what….50% of your potential customers on the internet do!!!” Jeffrey S. wrote on Yelp. “Funny, it’s always the liberals discriminating nowadays.”
“I heard you only served democrats & muslims ?? Is that true ??” wrote Ricky Wilson, of Mississippi, on Facebook.
James Pezzillo Jr., of New Jersey, wrote on Facebook, “After reading about your place being sued for not serving a Trump supporter, you can kiss my ass and rest assure I will spread the word to my fellow ‘proud deplorables’ to never venture into your pathetic establishment!”