NEW YORK CITY — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a man who claimed he was unfairly kicked out of a New York City bar for wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap.
The man, Greg Piatek of Philadelphia, had said he felt “extremely humiliated” after being told to leave The Happiest Hour bar in the city’s West Village in January 2017 by a manager who told him anyone who supports Donald Trump is not welcome.
But New York State Supreme Court Justice David B. Cohen ruled Wednesday that the bar didn’t violate the law.
“Here the claim that plaintiff was not served and eventually escorted out of the bar because of his perceived support for President Trump is not outrageous conduct,” the judge said in his ruling.
According to The New York Post, Cohen characterized the incident from the bench as nothing more than a “petty” slight.
Piatek had sued the bar and was seeking unspecified damages.
The dispute stemmed from a trip Piatek and some friends made to New York to visit the Freedom Tower and the September 11 Memorial and Museum. Piatek wore a red “Make America Great Again” hat which, according to the court documents, “holds significant and symbolic import” to him and “is an essential component of [his] overall personal and spiritual expression.”
The cap’s slogan was popularized in 2015 and 2016 by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, who often wore a similar hat on the campaign trail.
Afterwards, Piatek’s group stopped at the bar, where Piatek said he was intentionally ignored by the bartender due to his hat. Piatek said he was told to remove the cap if he wanted service, and when he refused, he and his friends were thrown out.
Piatek alleged in court documents that The Happiest Hour’s manager told him, “I spoke directly to the owner and the owner told me that anyone who supports Trump or believes what you believe is not welcome here! And you need to leave right now because we won’t serve you!”
Piatek said he and his friends were thrown out into the cold and he felt “extremely humiliated, degraded, victimized, embarrassed, and emotional distressed.”
But Jon Neidich, the owner of The Happiest Hour, disputes Piatek’s account.
In a statement to CNN, he said the bar and its owners “firmly support women’s rights, marriage equality, gun control, the environment, and regard for the truth — we don’t discriminate.”
“What’s gotten lost in this story is that the guest wasn’t kicked out because he was wearing a Trump hat — he was asked to leave after being verbally abusive to our staff, which is something we don’t tolerate regardless of who you are,” Niedich said.
Piatek’s attorney, Paul Liggieri, said they will review the judge’s opinion to see if they want to appeal.
“Certainly while we respect the judge’s ruling, it will have implication for those that wish to express their creed, especially in New York and within New York City,” Liggieri said. “You have to look to the legal definition and the reason why he wore that hat. He didn’t wear it specifically to support Trump, the hat doesn’t say Trump. He was paying tribute to 9/11 victims.
“There are many people (who) think that hat and the sentiment represent more than a political candidate.”
Neidich also said Piatek spent nearly $200 at the bar and left a 20% tip, something Piatek’s attorney disputes.
“He was not personally served. It’s a mischaracterization of the facts,” Liggieri said. “It happens to have been his tab that was opened. His friends at the bar were there and they were served, he wasn’t. They had his card (but) he was personally refused service.”