Lubbock's new Bier Haus, located at the former home of Gardski's Loft, opened Thursday, May 10. Local media was there to cover the opening, where owner Tommy Bonner showed off some of the work that went into transforming the old restaurant, which closed in 2016, into something brand new for the college crowd.

Days later, Bonner was fielding hefty criticism and even deleted the business' Facebook page.

So, what happened?

A photo of Bier Haus' rules, posted on Facebook by local photographer Emilio Garcia, went viral due to one specific policy toward tattoos.

Included in the list of things that weren't allowed at Bier Haus was "tattoos visible above the shoulders."

Courtesy: Emilio Garcia
Courtesy: Emilio Garcia

Many critics of the rule called it discriminatory and said it painted people with neck or face tattoos in a bad light. At the worst, some argued it was a "dog whistle" meant to single out and ban minorities from the business.

Bonner argued that that wasn't his intent, and that the rules were there to prevent biker gangs from selling drugs.

"When you come in with visible tattoos, we don’t care," he told Lubbock Online. "But how do you remove a biker gang if you don't have that posted?"

According to KCBD, Bonner issued a longer explanation on the Bier Haus Facebook page, writing: "When new bars and restaurants open, many times gangs will try to set up shop at these establishments and make it their territory and sell illegal substances. Typically these patrons have identifying tattoos on their bodies that show what gangs they are part of."

After the social media backlash, Bonner removed the sign and rescinded the tattoo policy. And in an attempt to extend an olive branch to tattooed clientele who felt singled out by the policy, Bonner said he would be leaving Bier Haus menus and discount certificates at Lubbock tattoo parlors.

"In retrospect, it did not give the people of Lubbock a chance. Instead, the policy was based on negative stereotypes which do not represent diversity of individuals with tattoos, visible or not. We deeply regret offending the great people of Lubbock, especially those with tattoos," Bonner told KCBD, adding: "We hope Lubbockites can look beyond our mistake and join us for a cold beer and excellent food."

It's too early to know if Bonner's mea culpa will be enough to convert critics into customers.

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