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Can a bar order patrons to stand for the national anthem?

(Raúl Nájera on Unsplash)

Should you be required to stand during the National Anthem, regardless of where you are?

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That’s a lingering question after an incident last weekend, when a patron at Auburn’s Bourbon Jack’s was asked to do just that.

Michele Johnson and her friends were out looking to play darts and grab a drink in Auburn. Shortly after arriving at Bourbon Jack’s, though, something odd took place.

We went in there, we got a couple drinks, and then we went over to a table next to the dart board. Shortly after, the DJ gets up and says something on the mic, and then they turn off the lights, and they start playing the National Anthem. Within a couple seconds, the bouncer comes up to our group and very aggressively says ‘hey you need to stand up and you need to take off your hat’ to my two friends.

“We were just shocked,” she added. “We were at a bar playing darts, and just didn’t feel like anyone should make us stand up.”

Not long after that, they finished their drinks and left.

“We just felt very uncomfortable,” she noted.

Later on, she reported the incident on Facebook, drawing a response from Bourbon Jack’s.

Michele we apologize if it made you uncomfortable, that is not our intentions[sic]. Here at Bourbon Jacks[sic] we support and honor the United States of America, our troops, and law enforcement. We love the country we live in and country music and it is a tradition that goes back many years to kick the night off with the National Anthem every Friday and Saturday night. We hope you will give us another chance someday.

It later added that the staff member who asked Michele and her friends to stand had “been spoken to” regarding the experience.

Michele’s father is a Vietnam veteran himself. Gee also asked military friends of his own to get their take on the situation.

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“I did reach out to some of my friends that are in the military, and this is something they’ve never heard of,” Gee said. “One friend actually said he could maybe understand if this was on base at a bar, but the fact that it was off base, and the fact that they’re talking to civilians, they didn’t understand.”

For Gee, the question isn’t whether a bar should be able to require its patrons to stand, rather that it’s a requirement in the first place.

“I’m not here to sit and have a conversation and to tell Bourbon Jacks how to run their business,” he said. “But I think the question is, it’s not about ‘can they,’ it’s about ‘should they.'”

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