A mere tasteless joke or outrageous provocation? One local bar is seeing a huge backlash over a controversial advertisement.
The ad for a bar in Walker's Point pokes fun at teen pregnancies and abortions among students at a nearby high school.
Sabbatic Bar, located on the corner of South 2nd and Pierce Streets, put the ad in a local nightlife magazine known as Alcoholmanac. Someone posted a photo of the ad online and it went viral. The bar owner said he never expected this kind of outrage.
The ad in question reads: "Our Back Alley: Where 50% of Bradley Tech Pregnancies Start and End."
"The advertisement is geared toward a specific clientele," said Jay Stamates, the owner of Sabbatic. "We are an anti-establishment, punk bar. The ad was meant to be a crude, shocking joke. A lot of people are having an overblown reaction to it."
Stamates said he has been getting death threats over it.
"People have been calling and saying 'we're going to get you, watch your back.' Implicit threats of violence," he said.
He said an administrator with Milwaukee Public Schools called to scold him, but did not want to hear about the frustration that prompted the ad.
"There's been ongoing vandalism, graffiti, and stealing," Stamates said.
He said Sabbatic, and other neighboring businesses, have been the target of teenagers. He shared surveillance video from inside his bar, which shows two young African-American girls breaking in and stealing things around 3:30 in the afternoon.
"This is a predominantly White and Hispanic neighborhood," Stamates said. "The only time there are teenagers of African American descent, is when they're on their way to and from school at Bradley Tech."
But Milwaukee police said they've found no apparent connection to Bradley Tech, besides the suspects being of school age.
"Everybody was talking about it at school today," said Steven Daniels, a senior at Bradley Tech. "We're angry. It feels degrading. No one that I know even knows where or what this bar is."
Daniels plans to reach out to Stamates.
"I plan to be as respectful as possible," he said. "Showing the respect that he didn't show to us. Asking him if he could take the advertisement down and write an apology to the school."
Stamates issued this public apology on social media:
I apologize to my staff, I never want to a take a dollar from you.
I apologize to the good kids at Bradley Tech, they got caught in the middle of tasteless joke.
I apologize to friends and family, you should never have to repudiate or defend me.
My heart goes out to the good MPS teachers burdened with a deeply challenging task, doing their best with limited resources.
My frustration remains for the MPS administration.
Stamates says he'd like to meet with MPS leaders to come up with solutions to crime and safety problems.
MPS released this statement Wednesday:
"The owner of this bar and the publishers of Alcoholmanac have the First Amendment right to publish what they wish, even material we feel is vulgar, offensive and tasteless. The bar owner admits the statements are not based on fact. We have a responsibility to speak out and stand up when false statements are made about our students. We will not stand by when they are degraded. We are reaching out to the NAACP and Lulac to discuss this with them."
And Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's office sent TODAY'S TMJ4 this statement:
“Disgusting, offensive, degrading, vile and repugnant are words that come to mind. What kind of person does something like this? It's absolutely sickening.”