The owner of popular LGBT Atlanta bar Burkhart’s is facing a torrent of criticism over Facebook posts from his account referring to former President Barack Obama by a racial slur among other controversial statements. The bar’s general manager has now come forward to respond, and a public meeting has been organized to address the incident.
Screenshots of the posts from the account of Burkhart’s owner Palmer Marsh have been circulating on social media since Friday afternoon, one of them undated and the other from 2015 and still live on Marsh’s feed (click to enlarge).
Georgia Voice also found the following post from a similar time period.
Marsh has not responded to requests for comment on the issue, but Burkhart’s General Manager Don Hunnewell issued a statement exclusively to Georgia Voice in which he sticks up for the bar’s employees, talks about his intentions to leave his position and offers to pass along any offers to purchase the bar.
Hunnewell’s statement follows:
As general manager of Burkhart’s, I will honor my employment contract and personal commitment to overseeing the day to day operations of Burkhart’s.
Burkhart’s staff, entertainers, cleaning and maintenance crews have served Burkhart’s with dedication and hard work for many years and these 50 plus souls often live tip jar to tip jar. Yesterday it took everything I had to soldier on and not terminate my employment agreement.
As general manager, my first obligation is to maintain and care for the hard-working staff who have dedicated many years to serving a huge loyal customer base that have become very close to the staff from years of pouring not just drinks, but pouring from theirs hearts.
The awesome staff I have the privilege to lead each day deserve so much better. It’s because of this dedicated staff that I too must soldier on today.
I have an immediate obligation to those dedicated souls and once their lives are stabilized I will seek new opportunities. In the meantime, I will maintain the daily operations and will happily deliver any and all purchase offers. Palmer and Mary Marsh have been retired since I arrived as GM and have had no active participation in the operations. I am honored to have such a high level of complete trust, but this is not what I signed up for.
I am proud of the Burkhart’s team and the loyal patrons. I will now pack for a much needed vacation that was planned months ago.
Meanwhile, LGBT activist group ATL Activate is hosting a public meeting about the issue on Jan. 27 at Old Fourth Ward event space Illuminarium. The group was formed in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.
“Please invite anyone who cares to face hate or discrimination in our ATL LGBT community head on,” the invitation reads. “We should all be united in our concern, our sadness and our resolve to make things right as a welcoming, loving and accepting group of people.”
Blake’s on the Park, another popular LGBT Atlanta bar, faced similar accusations of racism in July 2015 after posting a controversial dress code sign.
The Burkhart’s incident is the latest LGBT Atlanta nightlife story to hit the headlines after last November’s closing of dance club Jungle and the impending closing of Midtown Atlanta restaurant Cowtippers.
Meanwhile, Midtown residents are allegedly harassing LGBT bars Blake’s on the Park, TEN and My Sister’s Room, lodging numerous noise complaints that led to the creation of a group called I Am Midtown and public statements from the Atlanta Police Department and the office of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.