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Lakeview Bar Owners’ Defense of N-Word Sparks Enormous Backlash

Jake’s Pub is being crushed by negative Yelp and Facebook reviews

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Jake’s Pub
Jake’s Pub/Facebook
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The owners of a Lakeview bar used the N-word online over the weekend and attempted to justify its use, which led an army of Facebook and Yelp users to leave hundreds of negative reviews about the business. Users are saying to steer clear of Jake’s Pub, alleging ownership is racist and unrepentant in use of the slur. This was all in response to a former bar regular who wrote a post objecting to the use of the word.

The woman told Eater Chicago that she wants to remain anonymous. The white employees of Jake’s Pub, which includes bar manager Ashley Elmore and her uncle, owner Scott Johnson, have since deleted a series of Facebook posts on the bar’s official page. Jake’s Pub is a family-owned bar at 2932 N. Clark Street, a five-minute drive south of Wrigley Field. It’s a neighborhood dive that’s supposedly been open since 1933.

Elmore and Johnson jumped in on a post published on Saturday written on a personal Facebook page written by a mixed-race woman, half black and half white. She’s a former regular at the bar and wrote an objection to the use of the N-word by people who aren’t black. The post wasn’t prompted by a specific incident, the woman told Eater Chicago. Read her original post, copy and pasted below:

“Don’t say the N word if you are not black. Don’t say it. Don’t read it out loud. Don’t sing it. Don’t rap it. Don’t use it when you quote Dave Chappelle. Nope. Nah. Stop.

If it was written by a problematic white dude over a hundred years ago and you are reading passages of that book out loud? Still no. Bleep that shit out. Do what you need to do. I don’t care if it is art. I don’t care if it is a classic. Times have changed since then and you need to change with them.

And if it was written by a black person? If they put it in a song or used it in their stand-up? It was not written for YOU. You are a GUEST. Act accordingly.

Also, why DO you want to say it so badly? Examine your weird feelings about it. Do some work on you.

That original post didn’t tag anyone from Jake’s. The woman, who was a former regular at the bar, was Facebook friends with Ashley Elmore, who posts under her dog’s name, Hanzo Johnson. She responded by writing, “Jesus you literally hate white people almost as much as you hate yourself.” In series of responses, Elmore’s stepdad, Bruce Funk — who isn’t part of ownership — casually dropped the N-word while calling people who disagreed with him snowflakes. See the censored screenshot with one of the comments below:

A censored screenshot with a flawed explanation from the owners of Jake’s Pub.
Facebook Screenshot [Eater Tips]

Meanwhile, Elmore defended the use and demanded to “move forward for god sake”:

Ashley Elmore’s defense of the n-word.
Facebook/Eater Tips

The conversation was taken to Jake’s Pub Facebook page, where the team attempted to justify the use of the N-word. By Monday morning, those posts were deleted. However, evidence of their tirades still exist via screenshots, like this one via Yelp, with photos of Scott Johnson mocking the #MeToo movement:

A screenshot with Facebook comments from Jake’s Pub’s page.
Yelp/Drew S.

Johnson also threatened to dox the original poster, who isn’t surprised by the behavior. She’s happy that her story is going public.

“We need to get to a place where racism isn’t tolerated, not even in the slightest amount,” she said via a phone interview.

The woman was overwhelmed by support. She has connections to Chicago’s theatre community, and they rallied behind her with a hundreds of Yelp and Facebook posts trashing Jake’s Pub. Yelp had to trot out its infamous “clean-up” post, warning users that a rush of negative reviews were recently published. Other members of the performing arts community joined in as JC Brooks — the force behind the local soul band JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound — posted his objections. Brooks is the founder of one of Chicago’s most venerable musical acts. Brooks wrote, “there are plenty of places to spend your money where you won’t be supporting an unrepentant racist.”

there are plenty of places to spend your money where you won't be supporting an unrepentant racist. know that's what you support IF you visit. but really, just don't.

Posted by JC Brooks on Sunday, April 22, 2018

The incident also sparked the creation of a Reddit page. Users recalled the racist dress code at Bottled Blonde and whether the outrage affected that River North bar. Bottled Blonde continues to operate, and is appealing the city’s decision to revoke its liquor license.

The incident also begot a Facebook event: Black People Meet At Jake’s Pub Tonight.

Jake’s Pub hasn’t posted an apology. But in a bizarre exchange with one Facebook user, a member of the bar’s ownership team offered to discuss the matter over a beer at the bar. It wasn’t the friendliest exchange, but perhaps it was an attempt to meet over drinks rather than allow the conversation to avalanche to the typical online festival of outrage. That offer was declined online.

The woman who became a target for Jake’s owners wants Chicago to know that businesses with racist employees exist all across the city. It’s just not an isolated case involving Starbucks.

“Everyone should feel safe and welcome everywhere,” she said.

Jake's Pub

2932 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657 (773) 472-3752 Visit Website