Don't call Adam Kliebert a racist. He says it deeply offends him.
The home builder and owner of Rice Village's trendy Hudson Lounge has been at the center of a storm of controversy since the bar closed early Tuesday night, forcing out a stunned crowd of primarily African-American professionals at a holiday gathering. After a barrage of accusatory comments made their way from Twitter to Facebook to the bar's Yelp page, Kliebert reached out to CultureMap today to share his side of the story.
"My fiancé is Latina," Kliebert said. "I am not a racist person and I had nothing to do with the booking of this party. How can I be racist if I'm marrying a Latin girl?"
Kliebert points to the diversity of his friends and Hudson's staff — "I have employees that are Latina, black, white, Jewish, gay, straight" — and his own history of making charitable donations.
"We did a charity drive for the Houston Fire Department and I matched donations," Kliebert said. "I spent half a day at Kmart with my fiancé. I didn't ask what color the kids were who needed donations, I just gave."
Closing early due to the race or ethnicity of the bar's crowd doesn't make business sense, Kliebert said. "I don't want to kick out a bar full of patrons; that's money to me, that's revenue."
He disputes claims that Tuesday was a private event that had been planned in advance. "From what I understand from my event coordinator it was supposed to be 15 to 25 people and it ended up being 150. If they'd said there were 150 coming we could have staffed up, but they didn't and we had no idea."
Hudson instead had only two bartenders and one cocktail waitress working because Tuesday is normally a slow night. "I'm sorry they're mad we closed, but I'd rather give no service than bad service," he said.
Kliebert said he never called in and directed anyone to shut down the bar. "My manager made a call and I believe it was the right call. I just heard about all this the next day."
As for complaints that the bar, like many in town, screens patrons, Kliebert said "My bar has a dress code. I have my own friends who are white and they don't get in — they call me the next day and are upset and they're my friends in the bar. I don't care what color you are, we have a strict dress code. I don't want just anyone coming in off the street. If I wanted that, I'd have opened a beer joint."
Kliebert said he hesitates to meet with the aggrieved parties because of the threatening tone of some of the online comments and isn't sure what steps he should take to reach a resolution with the party's organizers.
"I'm not a racist," he repeated as the conversation ended. "Look at the comments people are putting on the Internet and it's like, who's the racist here?"
UPDATE: After reading this story, Ray Odom contacted CultureMap. "I was one of the party promoters and I made the initial contact and handled all the negotiations leading up to the event," Odom said in a email. "(Kliebert's) comment that is was a small deal for 15-25 people is laughable... we had a Facebook event page, and we also discussed the capacity of the back VIP room (we were told 85-90), we were asked how many guest we were expecting (we said 200), and to be fair, I received every consideration from Keith, the GM.
"Keith actually allowed us to run our own playlist through ITunes and it seemed like everything was fine until the owner showed. He didn't look happy when he was leaving, and immediately we were told to we had to turn the music off and that we had to leave at 12:00. We weren't happy, but we pled our case with Keith and got him to switch from techno to groove lounge and to play it by ear if the bar was making money.
"At 10:45, we got word the owner wanted us to shut it down. I asked to speak with the owner on the phone, and Keith said it was a losing battle. In an honest moment in the office he said plainly, the owner doesn't like the crowd.
To this moment, none of the party promoters have received an apology. It irked us to read your article, and while we realize he is scrambling to protect his image, the truth needs to be told.
To be clear, our intention is NOT to "play the race card". His actions speak for themselves, and his true actions need to be exposed."