The Durham Hotel Ejects an Asian Man from Its Rooftop Bar, Is Accused of Racism, Blames “Mistaken Identity” | News
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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Durham Hotel Ejects an Asian Man from Its Rooftop Bar, Is Accused of Racism, Blames “Mistaken Identity”

Posted by on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 3:25 PM

The Durham Hotel's rooftop bar is known for its gorgeous views of the downtown skyline (and steadily increasing number of cranes), but over the weekend, at least on Yelp and Facebook, it became known for something else: kicking out a sober patron because he allegedly made another guest feel “uncomfortable.”  

The rooftop bar at The Durham Hotel overlooking the 21c Museum Hotel - PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER
  • Photo by Alex Boerner
  • The rooftop bar at The Durham Hotel overlooking the 21c Museum Hotel

Michael Cho, a Duke radiology resident, detailed his experience on The Durham's Facebook review page

click image Click through to see the whole post.
  • Click through to see the whole post.

Here’s the whole message: 

#TheDurhamHotel and its rooftop bar are so committed to providing their clientele a retro mid to late 20th century experience that they go beyond the decor and train their employees in racism and bigotry.

The rooftop bar manager, [NAME REDACTED], approached me yesterday 30 minutes after I had arrived for a friend's birthday party, telling me to leave immediately. Apparently I had made a customer, who so clearly is more important than I, uncomfortable. I haven't been in Durham long, but chatting with friends over a glass of beer at a rooftop bar is inappropriate behavior? Perhaps, as an Asian man, I had risen above my station of working on a sugar cane plantation or building railroad tracks. Or perhaps it was inappropriate that a gay man was enjoying a fun evening with his friends rather than being locked up in a psychiatric ward receiving electroconvulsive therapy. We could not obtain a specific reason per hotel policy.

When a friend called this morning, the manager,  [NAME REDACTED] (who by the way is also gay and therefore the incident last night could not be due to homophobia), REASSURED us that [NAME REDACTED] was mistaken. Apparently a customer had a violent encounter with me and the police advised the establishment to kick me out. So, I guess [REDACTED] scanned the room, picked the FIRST ASIAN person she saw and proceeded to kick him out. No questions.

So, thank you [REDACTED] and The Durham Hotel for defaming my integrity, dignity, and reputation in front of my colleagues and your far superior clientele. I truly experienced what America in the 60s was like..I guess things haven't changed much.
On Sunday, he elaborated in an email to city council member Don Moffitt: 

Dear Mr. Moffitt,

Hello, my name is Michael Cho and I am a resident of Durham and resident physician at Duke University Medical Center. I was hoping I could get some advice about how to proceed following an incident at The Durham Hotel yesterday evening.

My boyfriend of 3.5 years and I visited the rooftop bar at The Durham yesterday for a colleague's birthday party at around 8:45pm. There were approximately 15 members in our party. We were the only gay couple and I was the only person of full East Asian descent in the group (the birthday boy and his wife are south Asian and one member of the group is of mixed ethnic background being of part Asian (Japanese) and European descent).

My boyfriend and I arrived at the rooftop bar, spoke to two of our friends in the hallway in front of the elevator for 5 minutes, went outside to the rooftop deck, said hi to a few more friends, went to the bar, asked a friend who was ordering drinks to grab a couple of drinks for us, chatted with a few other friends with our drinks, then went to meet the rest of the group. I interacted with no one outside of the party. I was with my boyfriend and at least one member of the birthday party at all times. I was wearing a Henley t-shirt (one other member of the party was In a t shirt as well), a baseball cap, shorts, and sandals.

At around 9:15, the general manager came over to me and told me that I had to leave immediately as I had made another customer uncomfortable. When I asked who and how, she replied that per hotel policy she could not provide this information. …

We left the bar, came home, and posted the incident on social media (Facebook and Yelp).

One of my friends contacted the hotel this morning and spoke to the general manager. He said the manager from the night before must have mistaken me for another person. Apparently a patron complained that she had a violent encounter with an individual at the same establishment. I don’t know what kind of description she provided the staff. However, the general manager was certain that this individual had described me (one of a few people of east asian descent) and told me to leave immediately.

I believe this blatant racism and prejudice is unacceptable.


Since then a flurry of one star reviews have been coming in both on Facebook and on Yelp. A sampling: 

click to enlarge screen_shot_2016-08-30_at_3.11.20_pm.png

On Monday, The Durham issued this statement by way of apology: 


Full statement: 
On Saturday, August 27 at 9:15 pm, Durham management privately approached a guest to ask them to leave the roof after another individual emphatically expressed a personal safety concern over their presence to our staff. This guest was both described to and identified by management by a detailed description of their attire.

The Durham’s policy in matters of interpersonal conflicts—a policy created on the advice of local law enforcement—is to ask all parties involved to leave without discussion. It is our responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone on our premises. Due to our inability to effectively arbitrate disputes, our policy is to immediately act on safety concerns voiced by any person.

We now very regrettably believe that the incident on Saturday night was a case of mistaken identity by the person who voiced the concern. We have contacted the guest who was asked to leave to express our deepest apologies for this unfortunate and upsetting incident.

The Durham Hotel does not tolerate discrimination in any form.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, The Durham's general manager, Craig Spitzer, declined to comment on the incident at this moment. Cho, in an email to the INDY, said he'd been invited to meet with The Durham. "I do not know what they will say, but I hope the meeting will result in a positive outcome," he wrote. 

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