Boone Saloon experiences backlash and change in management after controversial post

Christina Beals, Reporter

Boone Saloon received public backlash from an Instagram post on April 14, which pictured a sticker that read, “I Ask For Consent” found in the bar.

The caption read, “This sticker on our machine…with no consent. Get the irony? #noonesperfect #relax #letsdrank #iask #gettheirony #saam.”

The post was deleted after eight hours and received over 100 comments.

Comments included, “Not getting my business anymore unless whoever is responsible for this is terminated.” and “Funny! Has Skip taken responsibility for sexually harassing customers on St. Patrick’s Day?”

Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or SAAM, takes place every April, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

OASIS posted a statement on April 15 referencing the photo caption on Facebook and Twitter. OASIS called the post “tasteless and offensive,” and added, “Sexual assault is not a punchline.”

OASIS is a nonprofit organization that provides resources to victims of sexual and domestic assault in Watauga and Avery counties.

OASIS outreach coordinator Sarah Crouch said the motivation to respond to Boone Saloon came from the community’s response.

“Regardless of anything that’s happening in the community, our sense is that we stand with survivors. Period,” Crouch said.

Around 2:30 p.m. on April 15, Boone Saloon owner, Stephen “Skip” Sinanian, posted an apology on the bar’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

In the post, Sinanian took responsibility for the Instagram picture of the sticker and wrote, “Upon reflecting on some comments, I see that I have made some people upset over the years. I apologize to those that I have hurt. I will use this as an opportunity to become a better person.”

Prior to the Instagram post, on March 26, OASIS hosted a 2-hour interactive bar outreach training with staff from local bars including Boone Saloon, The Cardinal, The Horton Hotel and The Local.

Crouch said training was provided to help restaurant and bar employees learn how to be active bystanders for sexual harassment.

“We want to spark that conversation about policies and also just get a conversation going about consent and red flags and then talk about how to intervene if they do see one,” Crouch said.

Crouch said she hoped the workshops or events during Sexual Assault Awareness month help end sexual violence.

“I think that having it in that collective consciousness is a good thing and is the only way that we can spread awareness and educate the public on on sexual violence and awareness,” Crouch said. “Education is power.”

Boone Saloon was closed on April 15.

On April 18, Sinanian’s wife and Boone Saloon manager and owner Kelly DuPree posted a statement on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that denounced Sinanian’s “severe and inexcusable errors in judgement regarding the topic of sexual harassment and assault,” calling the errors “absolutely unacceptable.”

According to the statement, Sinanian was removed from his owner and manager position effective immediately.

News reporter Anna Muckenfuss contributed reporting for this story.