Restaurant Owner's Facebook Rant Over Tulsa Police Shootings Leads to Outcry

Bookie’s Bar and Grille co-owner Mark Jerant took to Facebook to offer up inflammatory views about the police killing of an unarmed black man named Terence Crutcher.
September 23, 2016, 9:00pm
Photo via Flickr user fetmano

It's hard to envision a scenario in which a bar/restaurant owner publicly airing criticisms of Black Lives Matter and the victims of police killings is going to end well for the business.

Yet the predictable consequences didn't stop two Detroit nightspots from doing just that.

In July, a bar called Populux's management used its company Twitter account to bash the Black Lives Matter movement. And this week, Bookie's Bar and Grille co-owner Mark Jerant took to Facebook to offer up inflammatory views about the Tulsa, OK police killing of an unarmed black man named Terence Crutcher.

The outcomes: Public outrage forced Populux to shut down, and Jerant's business partner appears to have cut Jerant out of the business.

The latter case played out this week after Jerant left remarks underneath a friend's Facebook post on Monday. In them, Jerant blamed the victims for the killings while also taking aim at the "liberal media."

Forty-year-old Terence Crutcher was killed by a gunshot wound from Officer Betty Shelby at close range after his truck was stalled at an intersection. Dash cam video and footage from a helicopter show Crutcher walking away from officers with his hands up, then being shot as he approached his car door.

Shelby has been charged with manslaughter, but Jerant placed blame elsewhere. His assessment of the killing [sic throughout]:

"Do you mean the unarmed man Who didn't listen to police....... Again.

The one who continued to resist by waking away from the police .... Again.

The one who continued to walk away with his hands up, and proceeded to disobey more orders all the way back to his vehicle.

Tthen put his hands down continued to disobey orders and then reached into the open widow of car? That unarmed man? That one that simply didn't listen ....... Again.

Get ready for the liberal media frenzy of BS. Then the audio will come out, then everyone will say he didn't listen, then after a false narrative for 3 months by BLM and "rioting peaceful protests" everyone will say ohhh I guess he was wrong, and the police were right? Then after a real investigation the truth comes out?

Simple story never changes. Listen to police who have guns pointed at you and don't get shot. It isn't hard."

BLAC first reported the story early in the week, and a chorus of calls for a Bookies boycott quickly followed. That prompted Jerant to do what everyone does when offering a sincere apology: issue a statement through a PR rep hired for damage control.

In the statement, Jerant acknowledged that his comments "may be viewed as hurtful or insensitive" and his "candid comments regarding policing has had a negative effect." But he clarifies that they were part of a "spirited discussion" with an African-American friend from high school.

"He and I have had open and frank conversations regarding current affairs, politics, race, inequality and social justice. It's commonplace for my friend and I to have candid exchanges on social media on issues and opinion that affect us both." Jerant said.

"I am embarrassed and regret the tone and tenor of my comments, as written words often lose inflection. I was expressing thought that reflect, in some measure, the sentiments that have been shared by my African American friends, that unfortunately the best way when confronted by police offices (sic) is to follow their every command to avoid a fatal confrontation. It should not be the case that African Americans should fear for their safety when engaged by law enforcement. These are tragedies which need to end."

Unsurprisingly, that didn't resolve the issue, and, on Wednesday, majority-owner Jay Lambrecht announced he "severed ties" with Jerant, a longtime friend who helped open the grille in 2003. Its close proximity to downtown Detroit's sports stadiums helped turn it into a popular pre and post game spot for a generally bro-y crowd.

Lambrecht did not respond to multiple requests for comment from MUNCHIES.

He did, however, leave an open letter on his Facebook page on Wednesday.

Today, Bookies Bar and Grille severed ties with Mark Jerant, a minority partner in the business. I will be the sole owner of the bar moving forward. Bookies has always prided itself on being a welcoming place to everyone. This is what I envisioned when I first opened Bookies in 2003 – a place where anyone and everyone would feel welcome. Mark's comments in no way reflect that of my own views or our staff. Two days ago, I stated actions speak louder than words on camera...this is my first action. My next action is to regain trust in the community both personally and as a business. I have worked in Detroit for 20 years and operated a business here for 14. I love this city, its culture, and community."

Is that enough? Some are skeptical, but Lambrecht told reporters at a Thursday morning press conference that Jerant now has "zero ownership" and acknowledged the difficult task that lies ahead in repairing trust with the city, especially its black residents. But he says that's his intention.

"Actions speak louder than words, and my first action was to figure out this split with Mark," Lambrecht told BLAC. "The second action is rebuilding our reputation with the community, but more than that, trust."