A bar in central Darwin is facing searing backlash after the owner allegedly ordered staff to ban “blacks” and start charging Indigenous customers for water. Screenshots of an apparent text thread from Mitchell McNamee—the owner of Rorkes Beer, Wine and Food—shows him telling a senior member of staff “I don’t care/I told you no blacks in my fucking bar/Use the excuse ‘no singlets’ start charging for water,” the ABC reports. Other accusations claim that McNamee owes thousands of dollars in unpaid wages to his employees, many of whom have quit in recent weeks.
A mass walk-out of some 15 staff members took place last week, with many employees claiming they were still owed several weeks’ worth of pay. One claimed to be owed $10,000. Others said that McNamee would often tell them to kick out Indigenous patrons for no reason.
"He's a racist,” said Thom Brock, a former junior manager at Rorkes, in conversation with the ABC. "He would ask me to charge (Indigenous customers) for water, which we're obviously not allowed to do because it's supposed to be free.” Brock further claimed he was owed about three weeks of unpaid wages totalling just under $6,000.
Rorkes has been closed for several days since the walk-out, with the bar’s general manager and head chef among those who have quit. If the allegations that McNamee charged Indigenous patrons for water are proven true, then the publican could be charged with breaching the Racial Discrimination Act.
“The Act makes it unlawful for a person who supplies goods or services to the public to refuse those goods or services because of someone's race," Chin Tan, Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner, explained—adding that he was “very concerned by the media reports.” A spokesperson for McNamee meanwhile insisted that "all the comments are not to be believed," and said that he would speak further about the matter on Thursday.
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