Lawyers for the University of Washington College Republicans group threatened Shultzy’s Bar and Grill in Seattle with a lawsuit Saturday if the bar denied the group service or the ability to host an event celebrating Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Officials with the bar initially requested the group not hold its event there, prompting the legal threat.
KIRO-TV’s Deedee Sun looked into the issue and spoke with a constitutional expert who said the bar did nothing wrong.
A group of about 15 UW College Republicans ended up meeting at Shultzy’s to celebrate Kavanaugh’s confirmation with a “Beers 4 Brett” event.
“We're happy this is all over. We wanted to grab a beer – you know, kind of a little joke. We all know Brett Kavanaugh likes a beer,” said Chevy Swanson, the UW College Republicans president.
But before the gathering, officials with the bar commented on the Facebook event page, saying:
"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."
Swanson said the club had no goals of causing any problems.
“So 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,” Swanson said.
Members of the club said the group Freedom X, which provides them legal representation, stepped in.
“He (the attorney) said in Seattle, that's illegal because political opinion, political ideology is a protected class like any other,” Swanson said.
The situation continued to play out on social media.
Officials with Freedom X cited the Seattle ordinance and threatened to take the bar to court, saying in part, "If denied service, Freedom X will sue to vindicate our clients' right."
KIRO consulted a constitutional law expert, Jeffery Needle, who said the bar did nothing wrong.
“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 said.
But he said hypothetically, if the bar denied all political events – be it Democrat, Republican or a "Save the Whales" event – then the bar would be in the clear.
“Then they're not treating one ideology different from any other ideology, and they're not violating the statute,” Needle said.
While UW College Republicans are celebrating, others around UW are not.
“Mostly some sadness paired with some anger, but I think what’s most frustrating to me is in the last two years, these kinds of decisions are totally expected, as sad as it is, and I know that within a month I’ll be more angry and sad about something else,” said Chelsea Barroero, who was passing Shultzy’s on Saturday.
Regarding the bar’s request for the UW College Republicans to not host their celebratory event there, even though the request was nonpartisan, Barroero said, “Go you, I would go have a beer there.”
Almost everywhere outside Seattle, businesses can deny service based on political beliefs.
“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,” Needle said.
Shultzy’s officials didn’t want to comment on the situation.