The University of Washington’s College Republicans threatened to sue a bar in Seattle after the private establishment said they didn’t want to host an event celebrating the successful confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
According to the local CBS affiliate, Shultzy’s Bar and Grill told the right-wing student organization they would rather not host the event because the bar is focused on showcasing sports events and does not endorse partisan political candidates or issues of any sort.
In a statement posted to the “Beers 4 Brett” Facebook page, Shultzy’s management requested the group find somewhere else to hold their pro-Kavanaugh gathering:
Shultzy’s is a sports-themed bar & grill that welcomes everyone. We do not promote or endorse any one religious or political viewpoint. As such, due to the political nature of your planned event we request that you find another venue to celebrate.
After that post, the College Republicans lawyered up–threatening to sue the sports bar if they refused service to the group. By way of legal representation provided via the Freedom X group, an attorney cited a Seattle ordinance and wrote, also on social media, “If denied service, Freedom X will sue to vindicate our clients’ right.”
After that, Shultzy’s officials appear to have stopped commenting–but appear to have folded in the face of the legal threat. At the planned time, 15 members of the College Republicans showed up at the bar anyway for drinks. They were allowed to purchase their booze and congregate without incident.
In comments to KIRO7, however, constitutional law expert Jeffery Needle said the threat was probably empty–so long as Shultzy’s was strictly anti-political across-the-board.
“They’re free to request all they like. If the group says too bad, ‘You’re required to admit us,’ and the bar says, ‘Oh no, you cannot come in,’ then at least potentially this group could have a claim,” Needle noted. But if the bar was consistently opposed to all political events? Then they’d be in the clear. He continued:
Then they’re not treating one ideology different from any other ideology and they’re not violating the statute.
University of Washington College Republicans President Chevy Swanson expressed his dismay. He said:
It’s very disheartening just to see something like this would get shut down, or be asked to shut down for not any good reason.
Seattle’s illegal discrimination ordinance is extremely atypical in that it defines “political ideology” as a protected class along the same lines as a person or group’s immutable characteristics like gender identity, sex, color, national origin and race.
Elsewhere in Washington State–and in most other jurisdictions across the nation–private businesses are not subject to legal sanction based on the content of customers’ expression. In other words, this is not a First Amendment issue whatsoever. Needle clarified in further comments to the local outlet:
The First Amendment does not apply to private action. This would be a purely private bar exercising their own judgment on who they want to serve on the basis of political ideology, and they could do that under national law.
[image via screengrab/KIRO7]
Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]