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White Poke Shop Manager Suspended After Throwing Chair at Black Customer

A video captured the manager apologizing outside Poke Poke

Yes, another Chicago poke shop chain faces a boycott.
Poke Poke [Official Photo]
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.

Management of a Downtown Chicago poke shop have suspended a business manager following an incident in which the white employee threw a chair at a black customer inside the store at 118 S. Wabash Street. Management at Poke Poke said they’re cooperating with police and that their employee will remain suspended until an investigation is completed. A social media video recorded after the incident has the employee apologizing to the customer and saying he “wasn’t trying to be racist” but was triggered when the dark-skinned customer entered, believing he was part of another group that he “fought” earlier in late December.

“Again, I’m fucking way in the wrong, I feel bad, but that was my first instinct because I’ve had to deal with fights here, which I shouldn’t,” said the employee, identified as Matthew Fezzey by Yahoo! Lifestyle, on the video. “And I legit thought we had to fight.”

The manager pleaded and said security doesn’t do a good enough job downtown. As he confessed to racial profiling, the customer, only identified as “Kyle,” interrupts and stares into the camera: “I wasn’t trying to hurt this man, I wanted to come into your place of business and talk to you.”

EMERGENCY: Everyone knows my longest mentee Kyle, he was racially profiled today at Poke Poke on Wabash by Matthew Fezzey. Matthew claims he fought two “black guys” the other day prompting him to get defensive and throw a CHAIR at Kyle. John this manager must be fired immediately and an immediate boycott of this restaurant! I can not believe this but as he was taught, he stayed professional, didn’t fight him, filed a police report & recorded this video. SHARE like wildfire. CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN, Fox, Martin!

Posted by Ja'Mal D Green on Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Poke Poke management didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. On Sunday, the company posted its own apology, writing that Fezzey had been suspended: “How our manager reacted to the situation was absolutely unacceptable and against what we stand far,” a portion of the statement read.

View this post on Instagram

Our statement on the recent incident.

A post shared by POKE POKÉ (@pokepokechi) on

The apology wasn’t enough for some, as many Instagram users questioned why the employee wasn’t fired. The video was shared by Ja’Mal Green, a community activist who was campaigning for mayor until he dropped out of the race in late December. He described “Kyle” as a mentee. In the post about the video, published on January 2, he called for a boycott of Poke Poke. That wouldn’t be the first time someone’s called for a boycott of a Chicago-based poke shop. Last year, Aloha Poke — a company that has no connection to Poke Poke — came under fire after attorneys sent letters urging Native Hawaiians to drop “aloha” from their business names.

Poke Poke arrived in the Chicago market in summer 2017 with the Wabash location. There are a pair of Loop locations and a third in Boystown. It appears Chicago police haven’t filed any related charges.