CHICAGO — The Holiday Club has apologized after one of its co-owners posted an anti-migrant meme that went viral and led to widespread criticism of the Uptown bar.
The owner behind the controversy, Peter Malek, said he will resign to keep the club from being damaged further.
“I’m hoping by apologizing and stepping down and not being part of Holiday Club … hopefully people will hate me, not the bar,” he said. “… It was my thought and my comment. It wasn’t the comment of my partners, my employees, coworkers and Holiday Club overall.
“Everything that I posted was on my Facebook page. I didn’t think at all, at all, that Holiday Club would somehow be brought into it. It wasn’t my intention.”
The incident started when Malek shared a post on his Facebook page showing a Mexican flag and a woman holding an infant. “‘I don’t want you to take away my child,’” the post says. At the bottom, it says, “Well then, don’t become an illegal alien sneaking across our border.”
The post and others from Malek were widely shared on social media, as were photos of Malek in a motorcycle jacket with a patch that appears to show the Nazi SS bolts. The patch is sold on white supremacist sites.
Holiday Club, 4000 N. Sheridan Road, was inundated with negative reviews on Facebook and Yelp and many said they would no longer go there. The club responded with several Facebook posts where the writers said the bar was committed to “strength through diversity” and would separate from Malek.
In its final post of the day Tuesday, the club apologized for Malek’s posts.
“… It is horrid, disgraceful and in no way represents the owners or staffs opinions,” the club wrote in a Facebook post. “This obtuse and deplorable opinion aired by Peter is in direct contrast to our very ‘forward’ thinking establishment as well as to the other two owners (who happened to be people of color and children of immigrants). Take no pause that this is being taken seriously and due to Peter’s new found voice he will no longer be a part of Holiday Club and its inclusiveness.”
But the bar is still being slammed by critics who are asking for proof Malek will no longer be part of the Holiday Club. Some said they will boycott the club until they know Malek has disinvested and won’t profit from their attendance.
“I appreciate this, but were you honestly, truly unaware of what type of person he is?” one person commented on the Holiday Club’s apology. “You didn’t honestly know he had an SS patch on his biker jacket?”
“Once the shares are sold and he’s no longer an owner you can post proof of that,” another person wrote. “Til then, your business profits support white supremacy.”
Malek told Block Club Chicago the motorcycle jacket with the controversial patch did not belong to him.
“It was a photo that was taken a long time ago, and the jacket belonged to someone else, and I don’t know what to do about that,” Malek said of the photo, which was posted online in 2013. “Me wearing that jacket a long time ago, I didn’t know that picture still existed. I love motorcycles. I know a lot of guys, and different cultures, and it doesn’t mean that I believe what they believe in.”
Malek, who bought the club with co-owners Sonny Domingo and Benjamin Greene, said he would leave the Holiday Club because he did not want it to suffer from the fallout over his posts.
Malek deleted the controversial post along with his Facebook profile as criticism of his post heightened.
Posts critical of the bar remained online, though, and it had hundreds of one-star reviews on Facebook and Yelp. The Ton Up Club, a motorcycle group that hosted events at the Holiday Club, also announced it would no longer work with the bar.
The Holiday Club’s co-owners could not immediately be reached for comment. Calls and messages to the bar were not immediately returned.
Some of the Facebook and Yelp reviews after Malek’s post: