By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
Jake’s Pub is known for its Chicago Cub fan parties, annual chili cook off contest and its Lagunitas IPA, a “ruthlessly delicious beer” that’s made with 43 different hops and 65 various malts. Customers gulp down gallons every day inside the bar located at 2932 N. Clark Street on the North Side. With a variety of events, Jake’s Pub over the years has built a fan base of patrons, many of whom have become regulars of the place.
But in recent days, Jake’s Pub, an 85-year-old Chicago institution, has been the center of a firestorm after the owners are accused of using the N-word on social media and defended it when they were called out on it.
The owner, Scott Johnson, claims to be a man for all races, but some former customers and even longtime patrons believe he is behind several now-deleted Facebook posts where he blasted a bi-racial woman who said whites shouldn’t use the n-word. But the response the woman received is igniting a backlash from current and prospective customers who are staying away from the pub and submitting loads of negative reviews on Facebook and Yelp. Some say the owners have a history of making racial comments. But to many, the latest alleged incident is the biggest insult of them all.
To customers, using the n-word is one thing, but defending it and going after the accuser is even worse. That’s what the owners of the lively establishment located less than a mile down the street from Wrigley Field are being accused of.
On Saturday, April 21, a woman, who remains anonymous, posted a comment on Facebook, saying that people who aren’t Black should not use the n-word. The woman reportedly is a former patron of Jake’s Pub and has had friends who worked there. Her original Facebook post, which is now private said, “Don’t use the N word if you are not Black. Don’t say it. Don’t read it out loud. Don’t sing it. Don’t rap it. Don’t use it when you quote Dave Chappelle. Nope. Nah…”
Ashley Elmore is a bar manager at Jake’s Pub. She is the niece of Johnson, the owner of Jake’s Pub. After the woman posted her comments, Elmore posted this racially-charged response under the profile name Hanzo Johnson.
“Jesus, you really hate white people almost as much as yourself.”
The comment sparked heated back and forth comments where Elmore was accused of being a racist.
Moments later, this response appeared under Hanzo Johnson.
“Who gives a (blacked out) what color you are in this time in history … your crutch is gone, move forward for god sake.”
Elmore’s stepfather, who is not part of the ownership of the bar, used the word n-word in his response, intensifying an already heated conversation.
After the woman offered to show screenshots of the conversations, Johnson on Jake’s Pub page reportedly told her that he had information on her that he could post, accusing the woman of being a “naughty girl.” He also asked the woman to tell him where her mother lived.
The Facebook comments have since been deleted, but several users were able to capture screenshots of the conversation.
The comments drew a backlash on social media where current and former Jake’s Pub patrons expressed their anger on Facebook, Reddit and Yelp, where they gave numerous one star reviews of the establishment.
“As a former patron of this bar I am disgusted BUT NOT SURPRISED! Jakes Pub is trash. I quit going there years ago because of how Scott and his drunk floozy niece treated people,” said Darius Kennedy on Facebook. “ I along with others who used to frequent his place will NEVER step foot in this place as long as that bigot Scott and his nasty little niece own this joint.”
In another post, Felicia LaRose said “I hadn’t visited your establishment yet. Now you couldn’t pay me to spend my time there. Your blatant racism sickens me and I hope this is the death knell for your bar. Take your hate somewhere else, Chicago doesn’t want you.”
On Monday, Yelp posted an “Active Clean up Alert, informing readers that some comments may be removed because people’s views of Jake’s Pub may be skewed by the negative publicity.
Efforts to reach Johnson were unsuccessful. The voicemail of Jake’s Pub was full and unable to accept new messages when the Crusader called on Tuesday, April 24.
But in a story in the Chicago Tribune, Johnson denied his comments were threatening and those made by Elmore were racist. He described the words of Funk, a family member who used the n-word as “questionable.”
In the article, Johnson accused people of trying to bring down his business in a “lynch mob” scenario.
“All I’m saying is that I did not and have not and never had any racial issues with anyone,” Johnson said in the Tribune article. “What I did yesterday was defend my tag, my brand…I got agitated because there were a lot of people accusing me of things that are inflammatory toward who I am and what we stand for.”
On Monday, five Black men reportedly dined at Jake’s Pub. The event, called “Black People meet at Jake’s Pub Tonight” was organized on Facebook. They reportedly had a positive experience but one said the employees seemed “eerily nice.”