Living within a mile of Wilton Manors, one of the most LGBT cities per capita in the Unite States, we all know everyone’s business, and we expect our businesses to know us, too.
Last week, my inbox was bombarded by notifications that a local business called Holy Mackerel would be hosting one, maybe two private events organized by Trump supporters. Here is how one of our local papers South Florida Gay News reported the story
Holy Mackerel, a small-batch craft beer spot in Wilton Manors, was the target of social media [uproar] after it came out that two Trump events were being hosted at the brewery.
Ehab Atallah, the director of operations for Holy Mackerel, said that they were not aware that the parties making the reservations were affiliated with a political group until seeing their posts online. Their social media was filled with backlash, and they shut down their pages while the staff figured out what happened.
“From my understanding, I think they actually went in, talked to a manager, from that point they told them they needed to make a reservation,” Atallah explained.
Holy Mackerel staff only asked for a contact name, their number, the date and time of the reservation, and how many people were coming. Both events were under 100 people, which is allowed under Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.
On Oct. 8, the Trump Victory Leadership Initiative had planned to host a Hawaiian-themed Champion Patriot Challenge at the brewery (see flier below), where they invited the public to “connect with great people and like-mind conservatives.” The event organizer did not respond to an email and call from South Florida Gay News.
The second event was planned for Oct. 13, hosted by Team Trump Broward. The private event was the group’s Fourth Annual BBQ & Brew, where they were hosting local candidates and organizers encouraged attendees to “proudly wear your TRUMP and Republican candidate gear!” Typically closed on Tuesday, Holy Mackerel was allowing them to use the space for a larger event that still met social distancing rules.
SIDE NOTE: In a June 2020 article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why the Extremist ‘Boogaloo Boys’ Wear Hawaiian Shirts“, it is explains just that. It’s just as stupid and uneducated as the Proud Boys selecting that name (or the even more moronic change to Leathermen, if that even happened). It is highly doubtful that the Hawaiian shirt theme was just a coincidence.
Then word spread through social media of the two events and opinions clashed — some felt that the events were not appropriate in LGBT-friendly Wilton Manors, while others said it was their right to host events wherever they wanted. Others criticized Holy Mackerel for agreeing to let the events take place at their establishment.
“For us, there would have been no signs there to trigger us to say this is an organization or political event,” Atallah said. “We would not push our political views towards the business in any way. It wouldn’t do the staff any justice.”
After reopening their social media pages, Atallah posted a statement from the brewery and posted his personal cell phone number should anyone want to discuss the situation with him.
Had they known it was a political event, either Republican or Democrat, he said they would not have accepted the reservation as it’s “just not something in our business model to do.” Neither event organizer got approval from Holy Mackerel to use their logos on their event fliers, and the brewery is working with Eventbrite to have it taken down from the BBQ & Brew event. Atallah also said he found out Team Trump Broward was planning on bringing BBQ from another restaurant — Holy Mackerel does not allow outside food to be brought in.
Holy Mackerel opened its doors at the end of January, just weeks before the state was shut down due to the pandemic. Even so, they have given free meals to firefighters and other first responders and been trying to be a part of the community.
“We were caught in the middle of this crossfire and we really took the brunt of it,” Atallah said of the event controversy. “I felt like nobody took the time to really want to find out what happened. And that was the only disappointing part. But listen, we’re strong and we’re going to get through this and I hope no one truly thinks we did this intentionally to hurt anyone.”
The staff has also learned its lesson and the brewery has a new policy: any reservations with more than six people have to go through Atallah.
“Lesson learned,” he said. “We definitely won’t make the same mistake twice, I promise you that.”
So did Holy Mackerel know there were two Trump supporting groups coming? Or were they blind-sided like the community was? Did the uproar over the events being held drive Holy Mackerel to take down its Facebook page and cave into the pressure?
With a restaurant that is a 2-minute walk from 15 gay bars and even more restaurants, shops, and other businesses, they had better try and cover face. I’ve only been to Holy Mackerel once and it was not a good experience. Three of us went and ordered meals that have 3 to 4 items apiece, normal for a bbq restaurant. One person received everything correctly, all other items were wrong. So I haven’t been back. And unfortunately, with this, even though there may be real blame to put on Holy Mackerel besides needing more fields to fill out on its rental form, there will always be a bad taste regarding this Trump fiasco.
So where do we go from here? I am sure there will be some in the community that will overlook this error on Holy Mackerel’s part. But what about the Trump supporters? Where are they going? While watching this mess unfold, the tickets were still mentioning Holy Mackerel as the host, but food was from a different bbq place. Now, things seem to be aligned better with the current plans.
Heading to the Eventbrite page for the Star-Spangled BBQ, we see the second event is setting up house at Banging’ Banjo Brewing Company and having the food catered by Bobby Rubino’s, both Pompano Florida Businesses. I loved the product at BBB Co, never had Bobby Rubino’s, but there are other businesses in the area that deserve my gay money more than they do now.
Businesses need to do what they need to do in order to survive “in these times”, but my money needs to support businesses that will support me and not go against my freedoms and rights in any time, now, and in the future.
Sources: Content reprinted with permission from South Florida Gay News. Other items from Facebook.
This post contains opinions of this contributing writer and may not reflect those of other writers or the Magazine.