The owner of Rainey Street bar Unbarlievable, Brandon Cash, is coming under fire (again) for insensitive remarks on his personal social media. The outrage has spawned a website documenting Cash’s posts, and a petition and a virtual protest calling to close Unbarlievable for good.
Unbarlievable’s second location on West Sixth had its liquor permit temporarily suspended two weekends ago by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) for violating COVID-19 regulations, though the original Rainey Street location was still able to operate. In response, people started resurfacing racist and misogynistic remarks Cash made on social media in 2017, as well as more recent remarks, in which he expressed anger over mandatory mask policies and towards TABC and Mayor Steve Adler for enforcing them, and said he was never sorry for his original comments in 2017.
Cash first faced public outcry in 2017 after leaving racist and misogynistic comments on online reviews of the bar. At that time, Cash publicly apologized, saying, “My words and actions were wrong, inappropriate, and inexcusable [...] I am going to work diligently to earn back the trust of my customers, my employees, and this community.”
However, in screenshots allegedly captured from Cash’s personal Facebook page from June 21 that have been shared widely across Austin, he appears to make a reference to that apology, writing: “I ain’t sorry for shit!!! Never fucking was!!!” This was posted after TABC announced it was temporarily suspending Unbarlievable’s West Sixth liquor permit.
In addition to mocking protestors as thousands have taken to the streets in support of Black communities, Cash reposted a story on his then-public Instagram Stories (as observed by Eater on Monday, June 23) depicting himself posing with a black rubber phallus in front of a sign saying “Black diccs matter.” His Instagram account has since been privatized.
Cash has also been responding to allegations of racism on his Instagram by ridiculing those direct-messaging him, as well as the city’s mask policy, TABC, and Mayor Adler. He had shared these direct messages on his Instagram Stories feed, as seen by Eater.
TABC has been particularly vigilant about enforcing COVID-19 prevention measures this past weekend— such operating at 50 percent indoor capacity or less, not allowing people to congregate at a bar, and maintaining social distancing between groups — as COVID-19 hospitalizations and infection rates reach record highs in Travis County. Violations result in a 30-day liquor license suspension on first offense, and 60-day suspension on second offense. Subsequently, all Texas bars were ordered to close by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday, June 26 in response to this virus surge.
Alex Walter, the former bar manager at the Pershing, created the website called F*ck Brandon Cash. As he explained to Eater:
I hoped that the website would limit the public’s ability to forgive Brandon again. In the past he made an attempt at making amends that was empty. With these new comments, he shows he clearly never meant it, and I don’t know many who thought he did. The general public doesn’t usually know a lot that goes on in bars after the lights are out. But I do. I believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to speak on bigotry and educate when they see opportunity to. I believe that if he truly wanted to learn he would.
The petition to close Unbarlievable, which was started by a different person, has over 16,500 signatures. While it’s addressed to the Austin City Council and Gov. Abbott, it’s unclear what power the council and governor would have when it comes to closing the bar.
Similarly, a group of Austin service industry workers are hosting a virtual protest of the bar. “We want to send a message to business owners of this town that we have had enough of the racism, the predatory behavior, and the outright sexual assaults that plague this city,” Nic Sanchez, one of the co-organizers, explained over email to Eater. “There is no room in this beautiful city for establishments or owners like this.”
An in-person protest was originally scheduled for the evening of Friday, June 26, in front of the Rainey Street bar. That was canceled because of that state-mandated bar closures issued in the morning. Now, instead, the group is asking people to participate in a virtual call to action by filing complaints to the TABC via phone and one-click emails.
The goal is to get Unbarlievable’s liquor license canceled “on the basis of discrimination and harassment,” Sanchez wrote, as well as make sure that Cash isn’t able to open or operate further businesses in the city.
They also want to make Cash’s “past and present actions accessible to all,” via an accompanying Facebook group and Instagram account chronicling Cash’s actions. Sanchez said, “We want the world to know his actions and views, and prevent him from being able to silently creep back into this community when the public eye shifts.”
The group also takes issue with the fact that Unbarlievable allegedly violated novel coronavirus mitigation measures, alleging in a statement to Eater, “They have encouraged packed crowds in their bars with no masks and allowed employees to work even after testing positive for COVID-19.” Eater reached out to bar for comment on this claim and Robert Espinosa, operating partner of Unbarlievable, told Eater that “this couldn’t be any further from the truth,” regarding the claim about employees.
Behind this protest are several Austinites who currently or previously worked in the service industry, along with Walter: Sanchez (aka DJ Diggy Dutch and co-founder of charitable party organization Tejas Pari Entertainment), Sarah Little (director of Pershing and director of the local chapter of events services The Supper Club), Heaven Fearn (a local marketing professional), and Crystal Maher (currently an events staffer at MondoCon and formerly a bartender at Parkside Projects).
Also as expected, people are also taking to Yelp, Google, and Unbarlievable’s social media accounts to express their displeasure, though all of the negative Google reviews and Instagram comments have since been deleted
These echo actions taken in 2017, when community leaders called for the boycott of Unbarlievable. TABC investigated the bar during that time, but ultimately found there were no legal violations committed. Eater has reached out to Unbarlievable for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.
In addition to two locations of Unbarlievable (on Rainey Street, which opened in March 2017, and the currently suspended one on West Sixth, which opened this spring), Cash is also involved with revamped bar The Aquarium on Sixth Street, and The Rooftop on Sixth Street and in San Marcos.
Update June 29, 2:19 p.m.: This article, originally published on Wednesday, June 24, has been updated to include information about the virtual protests of Unbarlievable as well as comment from the bar’s operating partnering regarding the allegation that staffers with COVID-19 worked at the bar.