Man in 'MAGA' Hat Kicked Out of NYC Bar, Is It Legal to Ask Donald Trump Supporters to Leave?

Dan Cini trump supporter jake's dilemma nyc bar legal discrimination trump
Dan Cini was asked to leave a bar in New York City because he was wearing a visor supporting President Donald Trump. The restaurant said the employee was wrong, but they were legally within their right to refuse him service. Alexandra Rosenmann

A man was kicked out of a New York City bar after an altercation about his "Make America Great Again" hat. While the bar said the employee was wrong based on its policies, legally the establishment was within its right to deny him service.

Is Asking a Trump Supporter to Leave a Restaurant Legal?

Personal feelings aside about the bar's decision, a judge's ruling in 2018 established a precedent for this type of situation, which determined that being a Trump supporter is not a protected class.

In 2017, Greg Piatek was asked to leave the Happiest Hour in New York City because he was wearing a MAGA hat. Piatek filed a lawsuit against the bar on the basis that they violated the law by discriminating against him. In New York City, there are 13 protected classes of people, meaning they cannot be discriminated against in public accommodations, including restaurants. The 13 protected classes are:

  • Age
  • Alienage or Citizenship Status
  • Color
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Gender Identity
  • Marital or Partnership Status
  • National Origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Race
  • Religion/Creed
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Status as a Veteran or Active Military Service Member

Piatek argued that he was a member of the protected class based upon his creed because he claimed the hat was representative of a set of "closely held spiritual aspirations and convictions that entirely transcend the political realm." Judge David Cohen disagreed and dismissed his case.

Under New York State Law, Cohen ruled, political affiliations are not considered part of the creed protected class.

"…Since the refusal to serve was based upon it's perceived political support for President Donald Trump, defendants did not discriminate against plaintiff based upon his creed and, therefore, did not violate New York State Human Rights Law," Cohen wrote in his ruling.

Vocalizing support for Trump is protected under the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech, and some have argued these instances infringe on that right. However, the Constitution applies to the government, not private businesses, so, if a restaurant is privately run, there likely isn't a violation of a person's First Amendment rights.

While there isn't a federal law banning discrimination based on political beliefs, that doesn't mean there aren't exceptions to the rule and state and local governments are able to establish laws that include political beliefs as a protected class. In Washington, D.C., for example, political affiliation is a protected trait, so a person cannot be discriminated against because of the political party they belong to or support.

Last week, Dion Cini posted a video on Facebook of him at Jake's Dilemma in New York City. During the verbal altercation with a bartender, Cini asked if he was being forced to leave because of his "MAGA" visor, and the bartender confirmed he was.

Cini repeatedly called the bartender a "soy boy," and the security guard asked Cini to address the issue outside the bar. The Trump supporter told the security guard he didn't do anything wrong and refused to leave.

While trying to get the man to leave, the security guard told Cini the bartender would not serve him until he took his hat off and since he refused to comply, he had to leave. Ultimately, the bartender called the New York Police Department and Cini left. Newsweek reached out to Cini but did not receive a response in time for publication.

What Happened After the Camera Shut Off?

This isn't the first time Cini has been asked to leave an establishment and he's established himself as a sort of provocateur when it comes to his support of Trump. In November, he was permanently banned from Disney World for displaying a Trump 2020 flag on a ride. However, this experience was slightly different than the other dozen or so times and he told WNBC this is allegedly the first time he's been served, paid for his meal and been asked to leave before he was finished.

"Denying service is OK, I get it, your bar, your restaurant ­– you call the shots. But if you accept service and then kick me out, then it's a problem," Cini said.

Jake's Dilemma addressed the situation and said it's not the place to promote political ideology because it strives to remain apolitical by welcoming people with differing beliefs and affiliations. Instead of turning to the political and possibly making other patrons uncomfortable, the bar encouraged people to eat, drink and socialize.

"With all this in mind, we do fully acknowledge that one of our employees took it upon himself to wrongly promote his political views," Jake's Dilemma said. "We can assure everyone that this employee has been disciplined and will be retrained before being allowed to serve at Jake's Dilemma."