As the INDYreported on Tuesday, a Duke resident doctor named Michael Cho and a group of his friends were asked to leave The Durham Hotel’s rooftop bar Saturday night, after another patron told the bar staff that his presence made her uncomfortable because she believed he had previously assaulted her. (He had not. According to the statement below, she later told bar staff that she had identified the wrong person.) Cho, who is Asian American, and his friends took to Facebook and Yelp, accusing the bar of racism.
The hotel first acknowledged the incident Monday on Facebook—before the INDY’’s report—after negative reviews flooded its social media pages and Cho complained about the incident to a City Council member. That post confirmed Cho’s account that he had been asked to leave without explanation, though it ascribed a different interpretation to the events, blaming mistaken identity. (Per the original statement, it is The Durham’s policy in interpersonal disputes to “ask all parties involved to leave without discussion,” and
Spitzer told the INDY Thursday in a follow-up call that the woman was asked to leave as well, and “once she felt safe” she did.) On Thursday, two days after the INDY contacted The Durham for comment, general manager Craig Spitzer emailed over a new statement, published in its entirety below, emphatically denying that The Durham’s actions were based on Cho’s race or sexuality and reiterating the bar’s stance that this “undoubtedly awful experience” was a “case of mistaken identity.” (Cho, in an email to the INDY on Wednesday, said he was in contact with the hotel staff and hoped to come to a positive resolution.)
Here is Spitzer’s statement:
Over the past few days, there have been several reports of an incident that occurred at The Durham Hotel on Saturday evening, first on social media and then published without
substantiation by INDY Week. Unfortunately, what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity and an undoubtedly awful experience for one of our rooftop guests and his party has escalated into a series of baseless accusations against The Durham Hotel and our staff.
The Durham Hotel reiterates its deepest apologies to Dr. Cho and his party. We have and will continue to be in contact with him to privately discuss this matter. We are committed to
providing a safe, welcoming place for all our guests, and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.
We hope the timeline below clarifies what occurred:
On Saturday, August 27th at 9:15pm, a woman approached the bar manager of The Durham Hotel to report that a man who had violently assaulted her in the past was currently at the rooftop bar. The woman, terrified and inconsolable, refused to risk being seen by the person she believed to be her attacker, stating that the man posed an imminent safety threat to her. She gave a detailed description of his hat, shirt, shorts,
shoes and his specific location.
The Durham’s standard public safety protocol, per the advice of law enforcement, is to ask all parties in any kind of personal dispute to leave the premises immediately without discussion. The manager approached Dr. Cho, whose attire and location matched
exactly the description provided by the woman, informed him of the issue, and asked him to leave. Dr. Cho asked for further information. Given the nature of the concern, we shared very little. Dr. Cho and fellow members of his party calmly left the premises.
On Sunday afternoon, a member of Dr. Cho’s party returned to the hotel to retrieve an item left behind the night before. She approached a manager, described what had occurred and the expressed the group’s frustration and concerns. The manager asked for Dr. Cho’s contact information so that he could reach out to discuss the incident. Subsequently, a conversation with the woman who made the original complaint revealed that Dr. Cho was not the victim’s attacker.
The Restaurant General Manager and Chef Andrea Reusing immediately attempted to contact Dr. Cho to apologize and explain how the situation occurred. Dr. Cho did not respond until the following day, stating that he would prefer to communicate by email. Reusing responded with her address.
In the interim Dr. Cho and others flooded Facebook and Yelp with unfounded allegations against members of our staff.
On Tuesday, Reusing and Hotel General Manager Craig Spitzer again contacted Dr. Cho, who indicated that she and Mr. Spitzer should expect an email shortly. To date, an email has not been received and we continue our efforts to meet in person with Dr. Cho.
Tuesday afternoon, INDY Week published an article consisting of screenshots from Facebook and Yelp, which included the false and reckless accusations against staff of The Durham. The publication also named staff members involved, which, considering the level of online animosity has potentially jeopardized their safety. Only after we requested that the names be redacted did the publication remove them.
On Saturday night we responded to what we then believed was a potentially dangerous situation between two people on our property. There is no question that this was a deeply disturbing experience, but it was unequivocally not motivated by race or sexual orientation.
Editor’s note: At The Durham’s request on Tuesday afternoon, we did in fact redact the names of the two individuals—one of whom was identified by first and last name, the other only by first name—Cho had mentioned in his social media post, which we had both linked to and reproduced online. As we cannot control what is on someone else’s social media page, we could only remove the names from our website. We also replaced an embed of Cho’s Facebook post with a screen grab so that one of those individuals’ names would not appear on our site. A previous version of this article said it was unclear whether or not management had asked the woman who felt uncomfortable to leave. We have updated the article to note she was asked to leave and did so when she felt it was safe for her to do so.