Punch Bowl Social in downtown Detroit is under fire this week after a customer accused a staff member of making racist comments and having her forcibly removed from the premises. On Sunday night, Lauren Ashley posted a detailed account on Facebook of an incident she witnessed at PBS.
In the posting, Ashley says her cousin approached a bartender to ask if it was too late to order more food and drink and was allegedly told, "I don't know...if I was your color I would just leave." The pair returned to their table and requested to speak to a manager. Instead, Ashley claims a bouncer was sent to remove them from the premises. In response, Ashley says her cousin slammed her glass on the table and turned to leave. However, not be for the bartender "aggressively" ran out from behind the bar towards her.
Eater called Punch Bowl this morning and was unable to reach management for comment. Reached by email, the chain's CEO Robert Thompson denied claims that Punch Bowl's staff made racist comments, but confirms that one bartender was fired for leaving the bar and verbally fighting with a patron. He adds that staff at the restaurant have not heard from the patron in question:
...It should be noted that we have not heard from the individual who was directly involved in the incident. Only her cousin, who was a removed observer, has provided her secondhand recollection on social media.
What we've been able to determine is that at around 1:30 a.m. on the 26th, a guest spoke with one of our managers on the mezzanine level about her desire to order food. Our kitchens close at 1:00 a.m. and so we were not able to feed her at that time. She also wanted to order additional drinks but it was "last call" and she was directed to order at the bar. She was unhappy that she could not order food and that there wasn't table service available and spoke one-on-one with our manager, out of range of her friends, including the individual, her cousin, who wrote the recap of their experience and made the discrimination accusations against him. The manager is a married gay man who has been discriminated against in his life and is extremely attuned to the struggles of others.
After reviewing video footage of the interaction from multiple angles and speaking extensively with the manager and our team, we do not believe that discrimination played any part in the interaction.
Discrimination, in any form, is not tolerated within our company. We realize that's an easy statement to say, but that often it's not supported behind the scenes. At Punch Bowl Social, we walk the walk. Our team, guests and community are a mix of cultures, ethnicities, orientations and beliefs that we celebrate and embrace.
Unrelated to the discrimination allegation, one of the bartenders on the main floor that night behaved in an unacceptable manner after the guest slammed her glass down on the bar. He came out from behind the bar, which is against our policy, and addressed the guest verbally as she was walking out. His actions were unnecessary, excessive (again, unrelated to the discrimination allegations that occurred upstairs) and in contrast to our service commitment and, as such, his employment with Punch Bowl Social has been terminated. We will not tolerate aggressive behavior by our team members or our guests at any time.
Since the incident, Ashley's post has been shared more than 2,000 times. Punch Bowl's Facebook and Yelp pages have also taken a major hit. This isn't the first time patrons have raised questions about the restaurant's quality of service. In January, Punch Bowl Social released a public apology and vowed to improved its service after a rocky holiday season launch.
Updated, 12/30, 10:23 a.m.: Metro Times managed to reach the woman who was directly involved in Sunday's alleged incident. Her account corrects some mistakes from her cousin, Lauren Ashley's, original viral Facebook post. Head over to MT for the interview.