A New York City judge decided Wednesday that a West Village bar's decision to refuse service to a man because he was wearing a Donald Trump "MAGA" hat was not illegal, The New York Daily News reported.
Philadelphia accountant Greg Piatek sued The Happiest Hour bar after he says he was kicked out for wearing the iconic red "MAGA" hat in January of 2017.
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Piatek claimed bartenders refused to serve him, and then was told by management “Anyone who supports Trump — or believes what you believe — is not welcome here! And you need to leave right now because we won’t serve you!" according to The New York Post.
Piatek sued the bar for "offending his sense of being American," according to Fortune, but was on shaky legal ground.
Barring state or local laws, private businesses generally have the right to refuse service to anyone as long as they aren't discriminating based on race, color, religion or national origin. Politics is not on the list.
So Piatek pivoted and claimed the hat wasn't political at all. In fact, it was part of his "closely held spiritual belief," according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by McClatchy in 2017.
"Rather than remove his hat, instead he held true to his spiritual belief and was forced from the bar," Piatek's lawyer Greg Liggieri said, according to the New York Post.
“At the time (Piatek) wore his hat, the election of President Trump was over and therefore (he) had no reason to wear the hat for any political purpose,” Piatek’s lawyers argued, according to the suit. “Rather, (he) wore his hat to pay tribute to the fallen heroes and victims of Sept. 11, 2001.”
The bar denied Piatek's claim that he was refused service, and produced receipts, obtained by Gothamist, that showed Piatek actually left a $36 tip on his $182 tab. His layer told the site Piatek has "such a good heart that he’s going to tip no matter."
On Wednesday, a judge called the complaint "petty" and threw it out. After peppering Liggieri with questions about what exactly his MAGA-hat related creed entailed, Justice David Cohen said Piatek "does not state any faith-based principle to which the hat relates," according to the New York Post.
"Supporting Trump is not a religion, whether you believe it very sincerely, it's not," said Elizabeth Conway, who represented The Happiest Hour, according to The New York Daily News. "He doesn't allege that he has some sort of belief system that he follows in his everyday life and his hat is sort of an example of that."
The Happiest Hour's owner Jon Neidich released a statement later Thursday.
"At the Happiest Hour we firmly support womens’ rights, marriage equality, gun control, the environment, and regard for the truth- we don’t discriminate," he wrote. "What's gotten lost in this story is that the guest wasn't kicked out because he was wearing a Trump hat- he was asked to leave after being verbally abusive to our staff, which is something we don't tolerate regardless of who you are"
"Certainly while we respect the judge's ruling, it will have implication for those that wish to express their creed, especially in New York and within New York City," Piatek's lawyer told CNN. "You have to look to the legal definition and the reason why he wore that hat. He didn't wear it specifically to support Trump, the hat doesn't say Trump. He was paying tribute to 9/11 victims."