Blackboard of shame: Hastings bar under fire over 'degrading' jokes

By Patrick O'Sullivan -
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The offending blackboard outside The Elbow Room Sports Bar owner in Hastings.
The offending blackboard outside The Elbow Room Sports Bar owner in Hastings.

The owner of a Hastings bar is spending a week volunteering at Hastings Women's Refuge to try to make amends for a joke his staff wrote outside The Elbow Room Sports Bar in Mahora last week.

Duty manager Roger Wright wrote on a footpath blackboard sign: "I saw six men kicking and punching my mother-in-law. My neighbour said, 'Are you going to help?' I said, 'No, six should be enough'."

A local resident complained to Hawke's Bay Today, saying the humour on the bar's blackboard was often misogynistic and some women felt scared walking past the "degrading and senseless" jokes. She said last week's was the worst she had seen.

Hastings Women's Refuge manager Julie Hart said if the bar manager and staff spent a week working in the refuge it would give them the opportunity to see the harm that is done to women and children "and how social discourse plays a large part in its continuation".

Police Eastern District's family violence and victims' manager Greg Brown said the bar's management had exercised bad taste and poor judgment.

"I can assure you there's nothing remotely humorous about family harm," he said.

"It robs women and our children of their potential and their future. To have people making light of the situation demonstrates ignorance."

He said family violence had a strong connection with alcohol and occurred across all sectors of society.

"You couldn't put this in any context that's acceptable. It's almost making excuses for it. It's trivialising it."

Bar owner Mike Newrick said he was shocked when he found out what was written outside his bar.

"I have contacted Women's Refuge and I am taking up Julie's offer to help for a week," he said.

"We'll do anything to help Women's Refuge. We help heaps of charities at the bar - we have a box at the bar for hospice and child cancer and now it looks like we are going to have one for Women's Refuge."

He said people talking the issue over was one good thing to come out of the situation.

While some said such a joke should not be taken seriously, "you can't say that to a victim of domestic violence", Mr Newrick said.

"I won't have a local resident too frightened to walk past the bar because of the sign on the blackboard. I live in Mahora so I'm not having it. I own the bar and just sold the Four Square, so I'm all for Mahora."

Mr Wright said it was the first complaint he received in his two years of writing a different joke each week for the bar's mainly male patrons.

Mr Newrick said there would be no more blackboard signs on the footpath.

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