Merivale found itself the centre of a media storm this week, after socialite Gordana Poljak was refused entry by an overzealous doorman due to her gratuitous tattoos.
The tattoo queen champions her decorative ink and operates a business combining the art form with make-up, called Dr Freckle and Mr Hide. She has reportedly worked on A-list clients such as Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe. Until 2010 she was married to TV celebrity Mike Willesee, 30 years her senior, with whom she has a teenage son.
Arriving at Merivale’s Coogee Pavilion last Saturday night she was denied entry by a staffer. Questioning the decision, Poljak was told by a manager to leave and call back on Monday.
But the Coogee local instead took to social media, announcing to her 4,143 closest Friends an initiative to boycott the beachside pub. The story was picked up within hours, and echoed through publications around the country and overseas.
“I get to Cooggee bay Hotel(Justin’s)! I was stopped at the door by two men, and said I cannot go further due to my neck and hand tattoos! Wow upstairs are adults, downstairs family’s and their children!” [sic] said the Facebook post.
“My tattoos describe me, they don’t define me! If that manager knew what my week was like, and the effort it took to org personal life to celebrate a birthday! He would have cried out of guilt! Fuking guaranteed!
“Looking and speaking to that manager makes me know I would never aspire to be weak rude and with poor communications skills!
“Those who wish to support me won’t go to Coogee bay hotel anymore!”
Hemmes wasted no time addressing the problem, personally texting Poljak a heart-felt apology.
“I’m so sorry to hear this. And I would like to apologise on behalf of my staff if they were rude to you as we certainly don’t encourage or condone such behaviour.”
The personal touch made all the difference for the single mum, who took again to social media to acknowledge “Justin has apologised!”.
“I accept their apology and I will still continue to go support a man who has acted in a respectful manner to address my bad situation!! It’s about rectifying the situation and that’s exactly what’s been done!”
Merivale declined to comment further on the incident.
A pub-café in California recently found itself in a similar situation, representative of the increasingly prominent public sentiment around nationalism and intolerance in the USA.
Dianna Carillo and three friends were shocked to have a waiter at Saint Marc’s ask them for ‘proof of residency’ before serving them in the upmarket eatery. Asking for clarification, they were reportedly told “yeah, I need to make sure you’re from here before I serve you”.
Carillo, American born of Mexican parents, approached the manager about the policy and was offered seating in a different section and his business card, but the group had already determined to leave.
After taking to social media to voice her concerns over the politically-tainted treatment, Carillo was contacted by the operators and offered a VIP experience at the venue – plus 10 per cent of the weekend’s profits to a charity of her choosing.
The VIP offer was turned down, but the profit pledge was delivered to the Orange County Immigrant Youth United group, which fights for the rights of undocumented immigrants.
Saint Marc’s director of operations Kent Bearden told the Washington Post that the staff member in question had been fired for violating company policy by not treating guests to the company’s expectations, and that such actions by employees are things “you can’t control”.
“The true measure is how you then handle it as a company. I feel very proud of our team and how we tried to take a proactive approach, trying to create a positive out of this situation.”
It was reported that the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 1,096 “bias-related incidents” in the month after President Trump’s election, including 125 in the typically open-minded state of California.
In Australia, hotel licensees are allowed to deny entry to anyone and not required to provide a reason, so long as the denial is not seen to be in breach of anti-discrimination laws, protecting the sanctity of race, age, gender, disability, sexuality or marital or domestic status.