Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fired For Blogging About A Mayorial Candidate

Fuck...against my better judgement, here goes nothing.

I was fired from one of my bartending gigs tonight. I wasn't fired for my ability, my attitude or for anything performance related. I was fired for something I wrote on my blog.

A few weeks ago I posted something about a Richmond Mayorial candidate and about how I bartended for him. (Click on "Richmond" for the post in question.) The candidate I bartended for was City Council President Bill Pantele. The posting itself is meant to be funny and does not speak poorly of Pantele, and infact up until an hour ago, I was endorsing Pantele for Mayor. Really the post is a light-hearted joke about how much I would like the guy as our mayor.

The story, as I was told by my manager when she canned me tonight is this: The restaurant, or I should say a consultant for the restaurant received two separate calls from people who are either associated with Pantele's campaign or our Pantele supporters. They came across my blog after the Style Weekly article involving my dust up with Channel 6 last week raised a ruckus and got me a bunch of attention. The people who called were not happy about their guy getting blogged about, especially considering the fact that they were paying the restaurant to hold the fundraiser (although who actually "paid", if anyone, is another story for another time) and that their designated bartender was the one who wrote about Pantele.

The restaurant then told me that they cannot have other politicos or city big wigs hearing that they have a bartender who blogs because it might disuade them from coming to the restaurant or using the restaurant for their functions.

At first I backpeddled and I said that I would take down the posts and would never blog about the restaurant again, but then I calmed down and really started thinking about this situation. I realize now that I can't back down. It wouldn't be me and it wouldn't be the person I want to become. I understand why I got fired, and that's that.

Bartending gigs come and go and I'll probably have another by next week. But a situation like this, well, I can't just ignore it. It would be against everything this blog is about, which if you didn't know, is me doing and saying whatever I think about (within the law of course).

The real questions here are, did Pantele indirectly get me fired? Or did one of his bonehead lackies make the call without his knowledge? If, and I'm not saying this as truth, Pantele was outraged and then orchestrated those calls? Hmmm. "Local politician goes to a public place (a restaurant), someone writes truthfully about him, he threatens restaurant, and 25 year old bartender loses job for trying to get more civically involved." Not a pretty headline. I guess running for mayor makes you immune to bloggers?

It doesn't sound good for Pantele or his campaign. Although I will say this again, I have no proof that anyone involved with him or his campaign made those calls. I'm only repeating the reasons given to me by the restaurant for my termination. I was told multiple times by my manager that they love having me there and they love my work behind the bar, and that this was an extremely tough situation for them. The reason I was given for getting fired was my blog. Plain and simple.

I don't blame the restaurant and I truly adore my managers and co-workers there. I put them in a tough spot and they did what they had to do. I'll miss that bar and I hate to make this into another shitstorm because it will probably look bad on their part too. Although let's be real honest here, more controversy surrounding this blog and I, will only hurt my chances in the future of landing "real" jobs. It hurts my reputation in certain circles. In a sense I guess I'm sort of taking a fall here, but I feel I've been wronged and I won't just lie down. I'M NOT STATING THIS AS FACT, but in my opinion, I lost my job because the restaurant was threatened by the oh-so powerful Bill Pantele campaign and they got scared. Again, this is all based on hearsay and I'm not saying that this is the stone cold, lead pipe reason that I'm not employed there anymore. It is strictly my semi-informed opinion.

Maybe something will come of this, maybe it won't. I always read those stories about bloggers losing their jobs because of their blog, I just never thought it would happen to me. It speaks to the tightassery of Richmond. In a city like NYC, this is a blip on the radar, a joke. Up until an hour ago I had never even considered taking the blog down, now, well, I'm flirting with the idea.

This goes without saying but I'm now de-endorsing Bill Pantele for the next Mayor of Richmond.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Holy hell! This may end up making the Ric Young incident look like childsplay.

Anonymous said...

Pantele is an insecure sleazeball. He's the most corrupt of the five candidates. I call him "the developers' mayor", because that's all he's after: big-wig status by association.

Funny that he couldn't even see that his mention on your blog was probably the closest he's been to "cool" in decades (especially considering his extremely low-standing among Richmond bloggers).

Let's hope he doesn't ride the white vote to victory.

Bookstore Piet said...

Amazing. Bet they weren't complaining when your blog was bringing in new people.

roosh said...

In the future you can still write the stories but speak in more general terms. "An important politician" instead of "Mayoral candidate" so and so. This leaves you with a healthy level of plausible deniability without sacrificing the writing.

GJ said...

This will probably help your writing career in terms of attention, but will restrict your corporate drone opportunities, as it'll scare off the jellyfish managers of the world.

The flip side is that bosses who are chill and interesting will find this story endearing, so if you ever go back to corporate droning you may find yourself working for someone you actually like.

Keep up the good work on the blog.

RVA Foodie said...

JGF: If you take this post down because of some amenable resolution, I hope someone posts it elsewhere. No way you're gonna un-drop this bomb. And I don't even like your blog (except as a guilty pleasure - probably a bigger complement than actual respect).

I can't decide if this is a classic case of small-time shortsighted politics or an actual business decision by bar and campaign. I would have thought you're termination would be a public health issue, not over political liability. Go figure.

Jephy said...

There is never a downside to anything depending on how you look at things.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not people want to hear about this sort of thing. Don't back down and do not take down the blog.

Your blog has come to far to stop now.

Anonymous said...

Not surprised in the least. People need to remember "Bosnia Bill" Pantele in relation to the Salomonsky/Hedgepeth bribery case. He should not be elected Mayor.

Kelly said...

On the one hand, I think you have every right to blog about any one running for public office... you could be at the same restaurant (not working) and been able to make an opinion the candidate... what would they do then?? Tell that restaurant that, because it serves people who don't like their candidate, they will not let them host an event... I did not like Pantele anyway...screw them...

Jocelyn Testes-Harder said...

"It speaks to the tightassery of Richmond."

That's about it. Thank God for
screen names, and domains by proxy.

Ava V. said...

That's fucked up. If he doesn't like to read about his true self he should change his ways...simple as that. Even though you got fired, you're helping everyone realize what a sleezebag this guy is, and hopefully he won't get elected.

Anonymous said...

If we're going to pile on a politician, we have to be professional and make our message clear:

"Sleazebag" is spelled with an "ea" not "ee."

Okay. Please resume.

Anonymous said...

What a pity party. You talk about your customers and write about them on your blog and you wonder why you got fired. Imagine these combinations: hair stylist/blogger, priest/blogger, doctor/blogger. You got fired for being a moron and a disgrace to your profession. Man up, Jack.

Anonymous said...

Amazing. A business in this booming economy does not care for its employees saying nasty things about their customers. Whats wrong with calling the guy a HEAVY drinker? Or discussing a newscasters tipping habits? You are kind of a hip Don Rickles type of guy. Borrow a line from Rickles and just call everyone a hocky puck. It appears that your endorsement is based on his drinking ability. Apparently your endorsements are not wanted. Please endorse John McCain today. Hopefully it will help Barry Obama carry Virginia.

Suzie said...

You got screwed. It shows what you get when you're loyal and work your ass off for someone... Nothing.

You probably brought more people into that bar because of this blog and your friends than any mayorial candidate ever did.

This should teach you not to trust people.

Anonymous said...

"Life is hard, it's even harder when you're dumb"
Austin Loungr Lizards.

Anonymous said...

Very, very few people can make a living as a writer:

http://www.2blowhards.com/archives/000809.html

Millions line up to be the next J.K. Rowling, but make less-than-entry level income.

Anonymous said...

Imagine if someone blogged about how many sicko slimy passes BP has made at women at parties all over town? Then it would be the politician getting fired instead of the bartender.

Anonymous said...

Life in Richmond under a Pantele regime will be like a Soviet gulag: party patrols, no freedom of speech without consequence, no fun, and lots of combovers and Bosnia references. Can't wait.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog from Style Weekly. It is great, and you are just too cute. : )

Anonymous said...

Any employee who would blog using a customer’s name should be fired. What were you thinking? Do you think the restaurant could ever trust you again? It has nothing to do with Pantele

Anonymous said...

I'm under the impression that losing a few shifts a week might end up being worth it to JGF in this instance. This is incredible stuff for someone who quits a real job expressly for bartending and writing.

Care to respond Jack?

Anonymous said...

"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas". No blogging bartenders allowed there. The first rule of bartending is...be invisible!!

Jack Goes Forth said...

I'm happy that so many people felt like commenting on this issue. I appreciate the supporters and believe it or not I also appreciate the anonymous haters I've been managing to stockpile over the months. What sucks about this open forum is that most people choose to anonymously comment, even when their comment makes sense and is of use to the discussion. Oh well, my blog skin grows tougher every day.

I've received a bunch of emails shouting about conspiracies and Pantele's involvment with that jailed Salomonsky developer guy and the former owner (now consultant) of Havana. I don't really know the exact circumstances and it's likely I may never know. I harbor no ill will towards anyone, although I will say that I'm a little hurt that Havana would leave me high and dry after this. Showing up an hour early to every shift and helping in every way possible just sometimes isn't enough... not when politics are involved I guess.

The bottom line is, I fucked up and I deserved what was coming.

Lucky for me I bounce back pretty quickly, and I'm not very worried about my future as a bartender.

I think its hilarious the amount of comments (and emails!) that I'm getting that are bashing Pantele. Again, I have no proof that he was anywhere near this thing, but from what I keep hearing, it's most likely that he was. Whatever. What can I do about it?

Anonymous said...

Agree with anonymous 6:43.
A bystander customer could blog with impunity , but not the employee.

Anonymous said...

looks like your back at Tiki Bobs!!!

Anonymous said...

When it comes to gossip (and blogging is just techno-gossip) RVA is a very small town.

Benedict Smith said...

if you're not pissing anyone off, you're not writing anything worth reading....back to the real world, that f'ing sucks in practical terms.

Anonymous said...

Gibson's Grill connected to The National Theatre is opening VERY soon and still needs bartenders.

Anonymous said...

Let's put aside the idea that the bar would approve of their bartenders publishing any patron's name and drink order. Help me see the value to them of having an employee who offers patrons a public speaking/appearance critique and the added side dish of nasty name-calling and anonymous unsubstantiated claims of impropriety in the online commentary. Can you really blame the restaurant for its thinking? And are you really surprised that a couple of customers complained? I'd say Bill deserves a bottle of Makers without all of those un-called-for extras. After all, his only part in all of this was to talk, socialize, and have a few drinks.

Anonymous said...

Showing up an hour early and doing whatever is asked of you does not give you the right to make ANY comments about Havana's customers (regardless of their small tips or heavy drinking). Your writing is ok if deflamation suits and copywrite infringement suits are something you want.

Anonymous said...

Jack, if you were me, this is how you would respond to the current blog-o-rama. Feel free to quote me liberally. "Hey all you out there typing instead of living,I just want to let you now I am really and truly sorry about all the mean-spirited blogs by me and others. Hey, I do get it. I've heard from enough of you to know that customers and people in general expect bartenders to be reticent confidants not gossip slingers. I am truly sorry I took unfair advantage of my bosses' customers, I should have warned them that I write about customers and whatever they do in my presence, and even flavor it with my opinions, inferences, and that my humor is not always appreciated or even recognized as humor. I still contend that technically, I had every right to write what I did, but I should have had better sense and should have realized that some very legal activities are plainly not advisable. I accept the consequences I have earned by my actions. I did it, I admit it, I am sorry, I plan to make amends. In the future my customers can be assured that while I am on duty their words and activities will not show up in any of my blogs. In closing I apologize to all who were hurt or angered by my writings and the rantings of my fans who thought they needed to defend me by further insulting, slandering, or defaming some of my bosses' customers. And to my fans, please respect my decision and stop the inflammatory and insulting blogs. Sincerely, Jack"

Please consider this for a while before responding. You should have been able to guess that in an election season all the opponents flakes and other home-grown whackos with a perceived grievance would feed off your blog like flies on sh_t. A non y mouse

Anonymous said...

http://saverichmond.com/?p=517

ooze or ouzo?

Ava V. said...

well we can't be perfect, can we?

and can people stop writing under anonymous

Bookstore Piet said...

It is rather odd, and sad, that the majority of the people who think Jack erred have chosen to comment anonymously.

Oh, and to Anon #643-A if you think speaking to a bartender is the same as confessing to a priest in a confessional you are sadly mistaken.

Jack made no secret of his blog when he took the position at the bar, they profited from it during his tenure. As an employer they were obligated to set guidelines if they were to use this as a condition of employment or termination.

Anonymous said...

I guess going to a bar makes you invisible now?

It's clear that Jack was in the wrong, he admits it. He was completely wrong. Why do you idiots insist on defending people who got blogged about? The public wants to know that Pantele is a fucking idiot, they deserve to know so they don't vote for him. Jack blogged and he got in trouble. BFD.

He's right, bartending jobs are a dime a dozen. Publicity and reactions like this though? Priceless.

The One and Only Ridor said...

It is my policy that I dismiss, remove and silence Anonymous' postings mainly because they are cowards -- hiding behind the monitor attacking Jack.

In fact, each Anonymous commentators, in my opinion, does not have a merit to discuss or argue anything else at all. Why? Because they are cowards.

Jack, I'm irked that you were fired simply because you endorsed Pantele and talked about his drinking habits at the gig ... I'm glad that you de-endorsed him. Screw him and his puppets.

I don't think Pantele will win the election.

R-

RVA Foodie said...

Could it be that people comment anonymously because they don't want an insecure politician to have them fired? Or, maybe not everyone who wants to comment is ready to develop an online persona.

Anyhow, if patrons at a bar should be allowed to remain anonymous, then shouldn't blog readers? Personally, I think divulging his identity is where Jack went wrong with this blog. I preferred the idea that he could have been any bartender instead of that guy who was in Style Weekly (or Richmond Mag, in my case).

Rabbit said...

It does seem impolitic to post about a paying customer by name, though I personally wouldn't fuss over it. As you said Jack, I understand Havana's point of view as well as Pantele's. However, this is a great example of how Back Door Bill works. If he dealt in the open he could easily have requested you take the blog down instead of getting you fired. Any plans for digging deeper?

Tom Sanchez Prunier said...

I am a working writer with corporate and freelance gigs, as well as ocassional paying gigs in poetry, screenwriting, marketing and journalism.

Writers often keep a personal journal, where they reflect on experiences and have a conversation with themselves (and sometimes find an idea or two to pursue creatively). The practice of journaling is good for developing your writing muscles, like a daily run or three or four trips to the gym. I keep a journal. I also blog - separately.

Experience also shows what should and should not be made public record. Opinions in print media are heavily vetted through experienced and respected people.

This blog is your journal, more or less... only you make it public, including where you work, the names of customers (be they local politicians or newscasters), and you share personal observations of public people with an ever-growing network of readers.

Problem is experience. The blogosphere (can't believe I just used that word) has become a partially accredited member of the Fourth Estate (media). That means what you write here is a matter of PUBLIC record.

When you blog that Bill Pantele is a stuttering version of George Costanza who drinks a lot based on behavior you observed in your place of employment, it is as though you said it to his face on the night in question. How do you think the owner, or manager on duty, would have responded if you said what you blogged to Pantele himself?

You might have been fired because of this or potential future embarassment. Do you think a politician - or any public figure - would want to book an event at that bar/restaurant if there's a chance their private behavior will be blogged about without their consent? Your behavior has potential negative impact on the bottom line.

Whether or not Pantele or his supporters complained about your blog is not the point. The point is you made negative characterizations of a paying customer of your employer. At least you only got fired.

That being said, I will admit to about three incidents where I put myself into hot water while blogging. Not with my day-job or writing career, mind you, but I had to answer for what I wrote. Like email, blogging can be a dangerous social tool that should be used responsibly.

There's nothing wrong with standing by your words if you're a journalist who follows a code of ethics like "off the record," "on background," or attribution. For example, did Pantele spill or misplace his drink, or did he toss back four burbons? If you don't know, you can't assert he did either. Of course, you may not consider yourself a journalist, and that's your prerogative. Still, you will find yourself looking for jobs often, be it bartender, jounalist, copywriter, chimney sweep, whatever, if you do things like the blog in question which can be characterized as, umm, shitting where you eat.

Then again, bartenders witness such interesting crossroads of people's lives. You may discover that not naming names makes the stories you're telling (retelling?) much more engaging without naming names...

... or taking their pictures, like the barista who gave you a free beverage at a franchise coffee shop named for a character in Battlestar Galactica (both versions). Hope she didn't lose her job too.

Either way, keep plugging along, and consider more drafts to tighten your work before you publish; you have a pretty big fan base, they'll wait for quality stuff.

I hope none of what I wrote above is received as insulting. My intention was to lend support. Losing your job sucks, but maybe it will put you one step closer to that "real" job you mentioned.

the one and only ridor said...

RVA Foodie: Perhaps that is the case. But my experiences as a professional blogger, I have come to the conclusion that anonymous posters merely use this avenue is to wage an attack upon others simultaneously hiding their identities.

As Deaf individual whom is very well known figure in Richmond Deaf Community, being anonymous is next to impossible, really.

I certainly can see the reasons that led to Jack's termination as a bartender at a local restaurant but I do not have to agree with that. Honest to God, I find this to be utterly ridiculous to start with. I mean, Pantele and his camp could have focus on better issues rather than to whine about Jack!

R-

Anonymous said...

Hey - at least you just got fired - could be worse - you could be HANGED ON A LIGHTPOST like some bloggers in Iran for speaking their minds....

the one and only ridor said...

Anonymous: Again, your comments about Iran is baseless.

This is America. And yet, you hide behind the monitor attacking Jack ... get a fuckin' grip.

R-

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