Customers are calling Chicago bar owner Peter Malek a racist and contemplating a boycott after he posted a politically charged Internet meme criticizing undocumented Mexican immigrants. Holiday Club, his Uptown bar at 4000 N. Sheridan Road, has already apologized online for the post. Meanwhile, people have responded with a litany of negative Yelp and Facebook reviews.
On Tuesday morning, Malek posted a meme of a mother holding an infant with the Mexican flag and a caption that read “I don’t want you to take away my child,” on top with “Well then, don’t become an illegal alien across out border” on bottom. Users quickly took screen captures and began sharing their outrage.
Now the bar is saying that Malek will be “resigning.”
The post was a reaction to President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which separates families seeking entrance to America at the border. Malek deleted the post shortly before 12:30 p.m.
That didn’t stop others from scrolling down Malek’s Facebook page and finding other material they deemed questionable. More than one person called out a patch on Malek’s motorcycle jacket which appears to include an “SS” lightning bolt, a relic from Nazi Germany.
Here’s the Anti-Defamation League’s description of the patch: “The SS Bolts are a common white supremacist/neo-Nazi symbol derived from Schutzstaffel (SS) of Nazi Germany. The SS, led by Heinrich Himmler, maintained the police state of Nazi Germany. Its members ranged from agents of the Gestapo to soldiers of the Waffen (armed) SS to guards at concentration and death camps.”
Malek didn’t address the patch, but he told Block Club Chicago that his initial post wasn’t racist. He justified his beliefs saying that his family immigrated in the ‘70s from Poland and did it “the right way.” Many motorcycle clubs use Holiday Club as a gathering place. One of those, Ton Up Chicago, is relocating its meetings in reaction to Malek’s post. They’re moving to the Cobra Lounge: “First and foremost we are a Moto family. We are inclusive and we celebrate every single person’s creed, color, sexual and gender orientation. Not one person should ever be shamed for who they are. The Ton Up Club Chicago refuses to be associated with such racist, hateful and inappropriate imagery and language.”
See a screen capture from the meme in question and another of Malek’s controversial posts below.
Minutes after Malek removed his post, Holiday Club’s Facebook page posted an apology. It’s unclear who actually wrote it, but the language clearly tries to distance itself from Malek: “We, the Holiday Club owners, staff, patrons and those that found a post (not by Holiday itself but rather by one that does not speak for the whole) reprehensible are actually on the same side.” The post also blamed a “culture war” for dividing America and that people needed to rise above.
The apology didn’t work. No one was defending Malek online. One user wrote: “At the end of the day if this person is an owner of your establishment then he is a reflection of your establishment! This mediocre response is not sufficient and should not be accepted!”
Another poster wrote: “nice deflection, though no one actually buys it. Cheers to you for trying to sell bullshit anyways! You can probably host KKK meetings to make up for the loss of business. Hope the memes were worth it.”
Yelp’s “clean-up” mode wasn’t active as of 2 p.m. and Holiday Club’s page was hit with around 100 one-star reviews by Tuesday afternoon. The incident is reminiscent of a series of events in April when Jake’s Pub in Lakeview was crushed after its white owners defended the right to use the “N-Word.”
Holiday Club management ignored Eater’s request for comment. Malek told Block Club that he had nothing more to share. The bar’s been around for 17 years and features karaoke nights and a supper club atmosphere. Its first location opened in 1993 in Wicker Park and was the site of Rick Bayless’s former restaurant.
- Holiday Club Faces Boycott After Co-Owner’s Anti-Immigrant Facebook Memes Go Viral [Block Club Chicago]
- Holiday Club Chicago [Yelp]
- Holiday Club Chicago [Facebook]
- The Trump administration’s separation of families at the border, explained [Vox]
- Lakeview Bar Owners’ Defense of N-Word Sparks Enormous Backlash [Eater Chicago]
- ADL [Official Site]