Holy Mackerel, a small-batch craft beer spot in Wilton Manors, was the target of social media after it came out that two Trump events were being hosted at the brewery.
Ehab Atallah, the director of operations for Holy Mackerel, said that they were not aware that the parties making the reservations were affiliated with a political group until seeing their posts online. Their social media was filled with backlash, and they shut down their pages while the staff figured out what happened.
“From my understanding, I think they actually went in, talked to a manager, from that point they told them they needed to make a reservation,” Atallah explained.
Holy Mackerel staff only asked for a contact name, their number, the date and time of the reservation, and how many people were coming. Both events were under 100 people, which is allowed under Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.
On Oct. 8, the Trump Victory Leadership Initiative had planned to host a Hawaiian-themed Champion Patriot Challenge at the brewery, where they invited the public to “connect with great people and like-mind conservatives.” The event organizer did not respond to an email and call from South Florida Gay News.
The second event was planned for Oct. 13, hosted by Team Trump Broward. The private event was the group’s Fourth Annual BBQ & Brew, where they were hosting local candidates and organizers encouraged attendees to “proudly wear your TRUMP and Republican candidate gear!” Typically closed on Tuesday, Holy Mackerel was allowing them to use the space for a larger event that still met social distancing rules.
Then word spread through social media of the two events and opinions clashed — some felt that the events were not appropriate in LGBT-friendly Wilton Manors, while others said it was their right to host events wherever they wanted. Others criticized Holy Mackerel for agreeing to let the events take place at their establishment.
“For us, there would have been no signs there to trigger us to say this is an organization or political event,” Atallah said. “We would not push our political views towards the business in any way. It wouldn’t do the staff any justice.”
After reopening their social media pages, Atallah posted a statement from the brewery and posted his personal cell phone number should anyone want to discuss the situation with him.
Had they known it was a political event, either Republican or Democrat, he said they would not have accepted the reservation as it’s “just not something in our business model to do.” Neither event organizer got approval from Holy Mackerel to use their logos on their event fliers, and the brewery is working with Eventbrite to have it taken down from the BBQ & Brew event. Atallah also said he found out Team Trump Broward was planning on bringing BBQ from another restaurant — Holy Mackerel does not allow outside food to be brought in.
Holy Mackerel opened its doors at the end of January, just weeks before the state was shut down due to the pandemic. Even so, they have given free meals to firefighters and other first responders and been trying to be a part of the community.
“We were caught in the middle of this crossfire and we really took the brunt of it,” Atallah said of the event controversy. “I felt like nobody took the time to really want to find out what happened. And that was the only disappointing part. But listen, we’re strong and we’re going to get through this and I hope no one truly thinks we did this intentionally to hurt anyone.”
The staff has also learned its lesson and the brewery has a new policy: any reservations with more than six people have to go through Atallah.
“Lesson learned,” he said. “We definitely won’t make the same mistake twice, I promise you that.”