Yihyun Jeong , The Republic | azcentral.com
Gilbert’s new Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row has issued a public apology days after staff turned away a customer, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq, because of his neck tattoo.
After Brandon Andrus stopped to grab a drink after dinner with his family on Wednesday, he posted on Facebook that he was not allowed in because of the “22” tattooed on his neck.
The number, Andrus wrote, is a suicide awareness statement — representing how many veterans, on average, commit suicide each day across the nation.
The veteran said he was humiliated and shared his experience online while leaving a review for the business.
“I was excited to check out a new bar in town,” Andrus wrote on Facebook. “I served my country with 2 tours in the Marine Corps, contribute to society, work full time, married and raising 2 kids in Gilbert.”
He said a general manager at Whiskey Row told him it was “corporate policy” to deny admittance to anyone with a face or neck tattoo.
Andrus and Riot Hospitality of Scottsdale, which operates Whiskey Row restaurants, did not respond to an interview request from The Republic Sunday morning.
Andrus’ post was shared widely online, sparking many to leave comments on the Facebook pages for all Whiskey Row locations, including Scottsdale and Tempe, saying that they would not return.
However, despite the policy, Whiskey Row admitted in a Facebook post Friday night that it “fell short” by failing to “welcome one of our most loyal and celebrated patrons: a military veteran.”
The company said the incident was a “misunderstanding” and that Andrus was not discriminated against because he is a veteran; rather, it said, staff was simply upholding a policy that was recommended by police.
Whiskey Row said it has since attempted to reach out to Andrus with an apology and an invitation to have him and his family return to make amends.
“We take this situation very seriously. The leaders in our company wish to make this right,” the company wrote. “While we will continue to strive to keep our patrons safe while in our establishments, further education of our staff will allow us to make exceptions to our dress code and tattoo policy moving forward,”
As a result, Whiskey Row is working to host a veterans and active-military appreciation event in the coming weeks, as well as working on training its staff with local police on the difference between gang and non-gang-related tattoos, the restaurant said.
Andrus shared the apology on Facebook and wrote, “Given the chance they decided to make it right.”