Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Local bar owner tells woman "this isn't the immigration center," then points toward the door

Posted By on Wed, Feb 7, 2018 at 1:08 PM

Lo Heinen thought it was a joke at first — not a good joke, mind you, but the words that had popped out of the bar owner's mouth were so shocking and offensive, all she could do was wait for a punchline.

Then, she says, he repeated them: "This isn't the immigration center," the owner of Rick's Ringside Pub told Heinen again. Then he pointed to the door.

"I was shell-shocked," Heinen says. "I didn't know what to say, so I walked out."

The incident unfolded last week at the Garland District bar where Heinen had planned to meet a group of friends. She approached the bar and handed the bartender her expired ID along with a valid, temporary paper ID. The bartender declined to accept it, which is when the owner, Rick Shontell, walked over, she says.

"When I looked at him, he was kind of mumbly and slurring his speech," says Heinen, who has been to the bar several times before.

Shortly after the incident, Heinen's husband, who is also named Rick, posted a simple request to Facebook:

The post has been shared more than 500 times, and touched off a flurry of comments from friends and strangers offering support.

Within an hour of her husband's post, Heinen says the bartender reached out to apologize:

"Hi! I'm the girl who carded your wife. I wanted to personally apologize on behalf of my owner which I know doesn't make up for his crude disgusting behavior. Your wife was a total sweetheart and very understanding when I explained we couldn't accept paper IDs. I am SO SORRY my boss said that, I hope you guys will come back when I'm working and maybe when he's not here. Again, my deepest sincerest apologies."

Other employees of the bar also left comments apologizing for their boss:

The next day, Shontell took to Facebook to offer his own apology:

But the damage was already done. In less than a week, people have flooded the bar's Facebook page with one-star ratings and told others to boycott the bar.

Mac and Jack's Brewery chimed in as well:

"I took it as insincere," Heinen says of Shontell's Facebook apology. "I don't think he would have apologized if it wouldn't have become public. There's no way he would have apologized even online if it wouldn't be affecting his bottom line."

In a conversation with the Inlander, Shontell's daughter, Renae, emphasizes that her father wishes to meet with Heinen to apologize.

"We're not taking it lightly," Renae Shontell says. "Sometimes people say things, and he said it, and he feels terrible. What he said was wrong, and he knows he can't take it away, but he wants to try and make it right."

Rick's Ringside Pub has been in business for nearly 30 years, and now Renae Shontell will begin to take over the business from her father. She's also considering a name change.

Heinen was born in American Samoa, but has lived in Washington state all of her life — the past 10 in Spokane. She says she's never experienced discrimination like this before.

Rick Eichstaedt, the executive director of the Center for Justice in Spokane, says Heinen potentially has a legal claim against the owner.

"It's against state law to discriminate against someone on the basis of race or national origin in a place of public accommodation," he says.

Eichstaedt has also offered to help Heinen file a complaint with the state's Human Rights Commission.

Kurtis Robinson, the president of Spokane's chapter of the NAACP,  has reached out to Heinen and Shontell. He's talked with Heinen, but has yet to hear back from Shontell, he said in a Facebook post.

"At first I was embarrassed and upset and hurt over everything," Heinen says. "But now I think it's just awesome to see how people are letting it be known that one person with shitty ideas doesn't speak for the whole town."

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Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.