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After a Facebook post by a Charleston musician alleged racism expressed by a bar co-owner in Columbia, King Street Public House in Charleston and Main Street Public House in Columbia each say that they have placed the man on an “indefinite leave of absence.”

On Sat. June 22, Don Merckle, whose band the Blacksmiths play across the Carolinas, took to Facebook to describe an encounter with Jimmy Latulipe at a bar in Columbia in which Merckle alleged that Latulipe used a racial slur while discussing when Merckle would perform at his restaurants.

According to Merckle’s account, during their conversation about booking dates, Latulipe allegedly assured the bandleader that he would keep “nigs” out of the bars.

In his Facebook post, Merckle said he was “dumbstruck” by the comment and immediately took issue with the assertion. He described the interaction as “one of the most blatantly racist encounters ​I have ever experienced.”

On Monday, King Street Public House in Charleston and Main Street Public House in Columbia posted similar statements saying that Latulipe would be placed on “an indefinite leave of absence” without pay. To allow the restaurants to “properly investigate” what they only described as “recent accusations,” the restaurants also said they would be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Reached via phone Tuesday morning, Tim Wells with King Street Public House said that he could offer no further comment. A follow-up message to Wells was not returned.

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In an interview with Free Times in Columbia, Merckle said that he had previously text messaged with Latulipe when discussing booking dates to perform, but that they had not previously met in person until then.

City Paper has reported over the past several years about how Charleston hip-hop artists have said they’ve found it difficult to find local avenues to showcase their music. In 2016, after a local musician’s cartoon posted on social media was called out as racist, members of the Charleston music community gathered for an open forum called Southern Discomfort to discuss the role of prejudice in the local creative culture.

“Most of the issues that are affecting us in the art community include the lack of ability to be included in spaces and events so that we can be seen by everybody,” Charleston rapper Matt Monday said at the time.

Last August, a year removed from the forums, Monday said that challenges for artists in his genre remained. “There’s not even a crowd here to enjoy or appreciate the music because the culture’s been so depreciated and diluted.”

K.J. Kearney, a local creative advocate and founder of Charleston Sticks Together said last year that a lack of diversity in the local music community also makes it hard to cultivate new artists. “How am I supposed to learn about booking if I can never get booked?”

Both restaurants say they will be open during normal hours beginning Wednesday.


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