Bar patron claims tattoo discrimination on Norris Lake

Bar patron claims tattoo discrimination on Norris Lake

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Mike McKeown admits the cartoon on his side is a mistake from his younger days, but he says he was unfairly singled out from others he's seen at the bar in the past. Mike McKeown admits the cartoon on his side is a mistake from his younger days, but he says he was unfairly singled out from others he's seen at the bar in the past.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

MAYNARDVILLE (WATE) - A local bar patron is claiming he was discriminated against because of his tattoos. The incident happened Saturday evening at Bubba Brew's on Norris Lake in Maynardville. The restaurant says some of the tattoos were offensive to families dining there.

Bubba Brew's is a floating sports pub and grill attached to Beach Island Marina, so there's not much of a dress code. People come off the water to eat and drink in their swimsuits and flip flops. It has the only full bar within a 30 mile radius so it draws quite a crowd. But employees say before the sun goes down, it is a family establishment.

"It's a beautiful place. It's on the lake, good food," admits Mike McKeown.

But when he stopped by Bubba Brew's on Saturday, he says the owner's father made it clear he wasn't welcome. 

"He said, 'I can't have that "I love strippers" tattoo showing. You're going to have to put your shirt on,'" recalled McKeown.

"There were some kids trying to figure out what he had written all over his body. You know, it's real simple. We pay the mortgage, we pay the insurance, we're going to make the rules," said Ned Bass.

He says the restaurant doesn't have a problem with tattoos; Bubba himself has several. The issue was this specific ink, some of which we can't show you.

"In a family-oriented establishment, you can't have the obscenities he has on his body. That's free speech. He can go to the beach, but he can't come to Bubba Brew's," Bass said.

McKeown admits the cartoon on his side is a mistake from his younger days, but he says he was unfairly singled out from others he's seen at the bar in the past.

"I've seen Nazi tattoos on people. I've seen naked women tattoos on people down there," McKeown claims.

"That's incorrect. That's totally incorrect," Bass countered."In the five years I've been here, I don't think I've ever seen tattoos that bad, quite honestly."

We showed the tattoos in question to Mark Bradley, who's vacationing on the lake this week with his family from Indiana.

"Some of the things on there were a little inappropriate for my two daughters to see because obviously they can read and spell and all that. I think those kinds of things, if you're going to come into a family establishment, you better cover them up," Bradley said.

Bubba Brew's has banned McKeown for the next year, but McKeown said he has no desire to go back after the way he was treated.

We asked 6 News legal analyst Greg Isaacs about the dispute. He said the restaurant was within its rights since people with tattoos are not protected under anti-discrimination laws.

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