Calif. Bar Owner Uses Facebook To Screen Patrons

By Lawrence Dechant

Facebook users in or around the Stockton, Calif., area may be getting a new friend. A local business owner has made it his mission to friend every bar patron as a precautionary measure to keep the good patrons in and the bad ones out.

Finnegan's Irish Pub and Grill owner Tony Mannor told he is using Facebook to build a list of customers welcomed at the pub after 9 p.m.

"What we did, at first, was enforce it on Friday nights, the worst night for fights, and we implemented Facebook Friday, and it completely eliminated the fights we were having," Mannor said. "We started implementing it on Saturday nights, as well, and it eliminated fights and troubles we were having."
Mannor said the crime problem in Stockton was the catalyst for his "friending" system, which he implemented two years ago.

"There was a restaurant that was a block down that was notorious for fights and, recently, a minor got shot and survived, but that was the last straw and the landlord couldn't take it anymore, so they were evicted," he said. "We also really wanted to expand our community involvement and we couldn't do that as just a bar. We wanted to put our full weight before as a restaurant, and we decided to run the guestbook seven days a week. We rarely have any problems and everything has been good every month."

It takes two to three weeks to officially get on the list once an individual has submitted a friend request via Facebook, Mannor said. The list is updated weekly, and a printed copy is kept at the entrance with the host.

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"We accept almost all friend requests ... as long as you were basically a non-gang member," Mannor said. "You'd be surprised at how many people put gang stuff on their Facebook, and that is prevalent in Stockton.

"We knew who you were and if you became a problem you could get off the list," he said. "Also, you don't have to be on the guest list to be able to enter. We do leave a certain amount of space for people not on the list, but we monitor them very closely. We are not excluding somebody, but it is like a standing reservation – about 80 percent of the list and about 20 percent friends of or not on the list."

Aside from being on the list, patrons must adhere to a dress code that eliminates plain white t-shirts, long t-shirts, baseball caps with gang affiliations and team jerseys, he said.

"All of these items are definitely connected to the gang culture here in Stockton," Mannor said.
The staff is also required to learn the names of the more than 7,000 people that come to the pub, he said.

"We are trying to build a community where everyone knows everyone's name and, in Stockton, which is a medium sized town, I can walk around and recognize people and they can recognize me," Mannor said. "It promotes a sense of safety and community. If you don't have rapport with your clientele, we can't build relationships and keep the place as safe as we can."

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Mannor said his staff supports the new policy after initial hesitation that business would be hindered. "My staff had initial concern that it was going to drive people away, but the opposite has happened where every other nighttime place has been dying off, but we have been increasing by numbers," he said. "We have been adding 100 people on my guest list a month, and business is booming."

To his critics, Manor said he is not being racist or discriminatory, but only trying to "build a community in a safe and happy environment."

"Half my staff is non-white and my family is mixed heritage, and it's amusing to me [that] people say this," he said. "I don't broadcast that because it's nobody's business, and when someone is turned away they assume it's something they cannot control rather than what they can. I think what it is, is that people are just excited to be part of a community that is positive within a city that keeps being beaten up by the negative. We have people coming in, members of law enforcement, and they'll tell their wives and daughters: If you need to go somewhere, come here. That is the ultimate compliment."

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