Vet barred from restaurant because of tattoo

Brandon Andrus hugs his son Christian and shows off his tattoos, one of which - the "22" - caused him to be denied entrance to Dierks Bentley Whiskey Row restaurant.

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq said he was humiliated Wednesday night when he was denied admittance into Gilbert’s new Dierks Bentley Whiskey Row restaurant because of his neck tattoo.

Brandon Andrus, the Iraq veteran, said he was not allowed to have a drink with family members because he has the number “22” tattooed on his neck as a suicide awareness statement. Military organizations say an average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day across the nation.

“I have been to a lot of different places and never once had an issue with anyone,” Andrus said. “They wouldn’t speak man to man. It was, ‘Sorry, sir, it’s a policy.’ They just thought I was going to cause trouble.”

Robyn Moore, a spokeswoman for Riot Hospitality of Scottsdale, which operates three Whiskey Row restaurants in Scottsdale, Tempe and Gilbert, apologized to Andrus, but said the company was upholding a policy recommended by police.

“We do apologize for making him upset. We don’t want anyone to feel discriminated against,” she said.

The company apologized to Andrus later Friday.

The restaurant said in a statement that it will be hosting a "veterans and active military appreciation event" soon. Also, the restaurant is asking local police "to educate our staff on the difference between gang and non-gang-related tattoos."

Moore said the new Gilbert restaurant had a problem the night before with someone who had a neck tattoo, so the need to enforce their rule was fresh in the minds of employees. She said the company would review the policy after consulting with police.

“I think they will be making steps toward changing the policy,” Moore said.

Andrus walked away, even though he said he was “beyond pissed,” feeling embarrassed and humiliated. Moore said Andrus walked up and down the street, yelling profanities about Whiskey Row.

Andrus served two tours of duty, a total of 14 months, in Iraq during 2004 and 2005. He said he has a 30 percent disability from the Veteran’s Administration for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Ben Andrus, Brandon’s brother, returned to the new restaurant on Gilbert Road, which celebrated its grand opening on Thursday night, where he demanded an explanation.

“It represents the 22 soldiers who commit suicide. This is not gang-related,” Ben said. “It was a very embarrassing moment. It was very uncomfortable.”

Ben said he understands why Whiskey Row wants to keep a clean atmosphere, but he believes an exception should have been made for his brother, because his brother’s tattoo has nothing to do with gangs and is related to his military service.

But Ben said the general manager told him that if Whiskey Row made an exception for his brother, “we would need to make an exception for everyone.”  

“Your issue is with gang-related visible neck tattoos. You are basically profiling my brother,” Ben said.

Brandon, a hairdresser, also has a tattoo of some scissors next to his ear.

Ben and Brandon Andrus, and their wives, had just had dinner at Nico’s, a nearby restaurant, and wanted to have a drink together at Whisky Row.

Moore said Whiskey Row employees initially had no idea Brandon was a veteran when he approached the door, but Ben said he made that clear to them when he demanded an explanation.

She later conceded that anyone with neck tattoo is not allowed inside a Whiskey Row, whether they are veterans or not veterans.

Reach Jim Walsh at 480-898-5639 or at jwalsh@timespublications.com.

(10) comments

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chrislevitt

Shame on you East Valley Tribune for publishing a story that is obviously sensationalized just to get you readers!! Whiskey Row is OBVIOUSLY NOT ANTI MILITARY AT ALL!!!

One of my good friends works there and Whiskey Row is about as American as you can get! They play country music, have camouflage booths and a 50 foot american flag at the front door for God's Sake!! This whole story makes me sick that a guy couldn't get into a bar, and the media falsely makes it into a story about patriotism and drags an amazing business through the mud.

Trump has been right all along, Eff off media for reporting fake news and making an amazing business look bad!!

Comment deleted.
hrivard

You do realize that these articles are cut and pasted from 2013 and the corrections for the reporting inaccuracies happened in 2015, right? Not that suicide should not be taken seriously, but when you propagate false news reports or inaccurate studies, you diminish the importance of the issue. Again, research and read fact-checked articles for the real story otherwise publicizing bad stats just sounds like someone with a personal agenda.

lauraaz

First, thank you for your service! I don't understand why people who have lots of visible tattoos are surprised by peoples negative reactions to them. A large percentage of the population consider tattoos on the neck or face, or backs of the hands to be either gang related, prison related, or troublemaker related. Their feeling may be totally unfounded, but you can't really be surprised either.

DaddyOfOz

This is exactly what he risk his life for! Now PPL need to do exactly what HE risk his life for. (If you don't get you never will). THANK YOU! MARINE! You are not missing much at the restaurant. Stand Tall.

crtfyd

DaddyOfOz, yes, you're right "This is exactly what he risk his life for!", but not in it's application. Don't mix up what he is, or done, with this matter. He fought for the Constitution which allows free speech. If I own a restaurant that doesn't want pink haired, lederhosen wearing people. That's MY right, its my establishment. He has the right to spread the word that neck tattoos are not welcome there, and if they feel they have suffered in business, maybe they will change, maybe not. It's their right. Don't make this a they're "hating a Marine thing". Embarrassing? yes, cuz the word wasn't out yet I assume. But the same freedoms I want, should be offered to them BECOUSE he fought for them.

HSmom

I think that this restaurant's actions were certainly wrong, but it is about more than just the fact that this man was a veteran. They chose to pick out one characteristic about a prior customer that they had problems with and ban everyone shared that characteristic: the "bad guy" had a neck tattoo, was probably in a gang and caused problems, therefore let's ban everyone with a neck tattoo just incase they're in a gang too and might cause problems like that other guy (even though lots of other people have tattoos there). Where does this over-reactive logic end. If a skin-head comes and causes problems, do they then bar all men with shaved heads, even my friend's African American grandpa who shaves because he started to go bald "just in case" ?

hrivard

Totally not cool. A core value of the Marine Corps is Honor and that includes acting responsibly and being accountable for your actions. I served in the Marine Corps as well but respect the policies and rules that establishments put into place. Serving our country doesn't suddenly make any of us above the rules. Also, check your facts bro...the 22 vets a day stat is totally wrong and misleading. You tattooed yourself with false information (maybe this qualifies as an alternative fact?): http://taskandpurpose.com/truth-22-veteran-suicides-day/
Also: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/02/04/the-missing-context-behind-a-widely-cited-statistic-that-there-are-22-veteran-suicides-a-day/

Pizono

It was a policy this corporation decide to do for their restaurants ... It is not against this man, it is against anyone with neck tattoo's

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