Apology not accepted: Critics and Jewish leaders decry Atlantic Sports Pub's racist meme

Apology not accepted: Critics and Jewish leaders decry Atlantic Sports Pub's racist meme

Less than a week after posting an anti-Semitic meme to its Facebook page, the Atlantic Sports Bar & Restaurant in Tiverton has retreated from social media — but that hasn’t stopped a wave of public condemnation from amateur restaurant critics to leaders in the local Jewish community. 

“I have been there 2x. I really liked it. Now they are posting about Jews in ovens being baked,” reads a recent one-star Yelp review. “My only regret is there is no way to leave negative stars,” reads another. And: “You couldn't pay me to eat at a restaurant that thinks it's acceptable to make holocaust jokes for their advertisement. It's never funny and not even remotely okay.” 

On Friday, the sports bar, at 70 Shove St. near the Fall River line, posted a meme to its Facebook page depicting teenage Jewish writer Anne Frank and comparing the recent hot summer weather with the ovens Nazis used to cremate murdered Jewish prisoners kept in concentration camps during World War II.

Changing management: Old Grist Mill Tavern owners want to retire. A Fall River restaurateur wants to take over.

The restaurant initially defended the image as an attempt at humor. Later, it deleted the image, and posted "our deepest apology to those who were rightfully hurt by our actions.

“The post was poorly thought out and we realize that it was incredibly inappropriate and does not reflect our values as members of our community … The Atlantic Restaurant prides itself on being a tolerant, inclusive and safe space for all people.” 

As of Wednesday, the Atlantic Sports Bar’s Facebook page is inactive. When asked to address the incident, a person who answered the phone at the Shove Street establishment on Wednesday afternoon said, “We have no comment.” 

Development in Swansea: A Kraft Group company, new gym, repaved road: The Shoppes at Swansea is taking shape

Yelp users bombard Atlantic Sports Bar page

Users from as far away as Vancouver, Canada, and across the country have review-bombed the Atlantic Sports Bar’s Yelp page with one-star reviews; the story has gone viral, appearing in media as far-flung as the New York Post, the Miami Herald, and London’s Daily Mail. Yelp, which allows users to rate businesses, said it had “temporarily disabled the ability to post here as we work to investigate the content.” 

“While racism has no place on Yelp and we unequivocally reject racism or discrimination in any form,” a notice on the page reads, “all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual first-hand consumer experience (even if that means disabling the ability for users to express points of view we might agree with).”  

According to the site, over 200 one-star reviews have been posted within the last two days, with dozens of other one-star reviews “not recommended.” 

Users on Yelp and Facebook have called for a boycott of the restaurant. 

How to learn more: Bristol Community College's new library collection focuses on the Holocaust and genocide

Jewish leaders decry dehumanizing Facebook post 

The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island issued a statement on Wednesday saying it was “dismayed” by the Atlantic Sports Bar’s post, but leaving the door open for the restaurant’s owners to make amends by learning more about why their post was inappropriate.  

“We appreciate the recent apology made by the restaurant owners and welcome the opportunity to speak with them and their staff to further educate them on the dangers of language like this,” the statement reads. 

"Invoking Nazi imagery and rhetoric to express anything other than the systematic genocide of an entire people, trivializes the brutal murders of the six million Jews and five million other human beings. It harms the Jewish community and all victims by dishonoring the memories of those who were killed.” 

Ron Weisberger of the Bristol Community College Holocaust and Genocide Center said the danger of making these kinds of alleged “jokes” is that they’re dehumanizing and spread a lack of empathy. 

“These types of things … add up to an atmosphere that can lead to much more serious problems," Weisberger said. “I teach history. … You see certain trends.” 

Coincidentally, the college’s center, one of only three college-level Holocaust education centers in the state, has been hosting a free summer lecture series about the Nazi genocide, "The Power of Words: Building Respect and Tolerance through Lessons of the Holocaust." The series repeats Aug 2 to 4. 

Weisberger said even offensive memes like the one posted by the Atlantic Sports Bar can cause profound harm.  

“I think it’s very serious. It reflects a not understanding of what that means," Weisberger said. “For example, tomorrow we’re having a survivor — a 94-year-old woman will be speaking to us. Think about what she would think about this. She was in one of the concentration camps. She survived the Holocaust — one of the relatively few that did. Imagine how she feels. … She lost probably everybody in her family to the very thing that they’re talking about.” 

Dan Medeiros can be reached at dmedeiros@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.