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No Longer Welcome

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It’s probably naive of me to say so, but I honestly thought that we were getting to a point where people were no longer barred from establishments like restaurants or taverns for having tattoos.  I don’t know why exactly it is that I thought this, but most likely it came from me not seeing any news on this sort of issue for quite some time.  The last time I can remember reading anything about someone being banned from a public place due to their tattoos was probably at least a year or two ago.

Sadly, we have still not cleared that hurdle.  Customers have recently been banned from a bar in Christchurch, New Zealand for having tattoos on the neck or face.  These weren’t random customers either, but long time customers who have been going to what was formerly known as the Parklands Tavern but is now called the Turf Bar, for years.

Shaun McNicholl

Last Thursday, Tunahau Kohu was asked to leave the bar because of his moko, or facial tattoos.  The tattoos are an important part of Maori culture, but that didn’t make any difference to the owner of the Turf Bar.  The next day, long time patron Shaun McNicholl was also asked to leave – by staff who are reportedly his friends.  McNicholl has tattoos covering his arms, chest and neck.  The bar has decided to change their image and has banned customers who have tattoos on their neck or face.  McNicholl started going to the tavern at age 16 with his parents on Thursdays and has been doing so until now, at the age of 22.

‘McNicholl, 22, who works at food manufacturer Tegel, said he had never encountered prejudice because of his tattoos.

He was upset at being barred because he had been a regular patron of the tavern before the refurbishment.

He was friends with many of the bar staff, and it was one of them who told him he was no longer welcome.

“I’ve been going there every Thursday since I was about 16, with my parents of course,” he said.

“I was there on Thursday, with no problems, for about half an hour. Then I went back on Friday for a friend’s birthday. I was there maybe about 10 minutes and a security guard, who is also a friend of mine, just said: `You need to leave’.”‘

Tunahau Kohu has since taken this issue up with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and his case is being looked into.  McNicholl also attempted to complain to the Human Rights Commission, but they told him that bars do have the right to choose who they let in and that since his tattoos do not have any cultural significance, he does not have a case against Turf Bar.

It really sucks that this kind of thing has to go on.  Turf Bar co-owner Louis Vieceli claims that they are doing this in order to create a “welcoming environment for people.”  That’s great.  Too bad that “welcoming environment” doesn’t include tattooed people.

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