According to reports from both Mission Local and Broke-Ass Stewart, about 20 "Proud Boys" showed up to Southern Pacific Brewing Company on Friday night for a meetup. [Ed. note: See a statement from the Proud Boys below.]
The Proud Boys are the same alt-right fraternity, started by VICE Mag co-founder turned "pro-Western" pundit Gavin McInnes, that organized the rally in Berkeley this past March that led multiple others this year filled with violence between left and right. Specifically, the Proud Boys are dedicated to upholding many of the alt-right's anti-immigration, anti-Semitic, bigoted viewpoints, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, though the internal conflicts in the group over their association with white nationalists and Charlottesville were the subject of a recent This American Life segment. (McInnes liked to define the Proud Boys as "alt-right without the racism," and he likes to say they're "mostly about beer," but that became fraught after members of a local chapter allegedly took part in Charlottesville.)
On Saturday, following reports about the meetup, Southern Pacific Brewing Company posted an apology on Facebook trying to distance itself from the group. It reads:
To address the concerns of last night:
The security company that we employ were not immediately aware of the affiliation of the group that was let into the bar. After they were recognized by bar tending staff, the staff and security decided not to engage with this dangerous group to ensure the safety of everyone here. By no means does Southern Pacific support this group, and they are not welcome on the premises.
We’ve spoken to our security company so this group will not be allowed in. We understand your safety concerns. And want you to know that Southern Pacific is a non-affiliated space built for the San Francisco community.
On the one hand, it's disappointing to see that after learning who they were, Southern Pacific decided to act, and this all feels like a lukewarm excuse at best. But on the other hand, the group's previously documented aggression in Berkeley (which they and all others on the right will characterize as self-defense against "antifa") could be cause for concern.
According to the SPLC, the Proud Boys have what's called a "tactical defensive arm" called the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights (FOAK), which was formed by Bay Area alt-right figure Kyle Chapman, a.k.a. "Based Stickman" (and who knows if the Proud Boys officially recognize this as a thing).
As part of the initiation rites to join the Proud Boys, The Daily Dot says that members are asked to take punches while they name breakfast cereals, among other things. Ultimately, to reach the highest "degree" within the organization, the SPLC says that they're asked to get into a fight with an antifascist activist at a rally or action. Knowing that, one could maybe see where the Southern Pacific security staff were coming from.
But still, even then, there's no excuse for standing by while a group of white nationalists known for their violent proclivities occupy your space. It's neglecting your customers' safety in favor of not wanting to "pick a fight" with people who would otherwise be all-too-happy to start that fight themselves.
After news of the meetup spread, some people turned out to Southern Pacific's Yelp page to voice their unhappiness at the brewery's stance on hosting white nationalists. One person wrote, "I will never support a business that plays host to small minded bigots and their friends. Boycott this place." Another wrote, "When this bar realized they were hosting a group of white Nationalists, they didn't kick them out. Now they claim the racists aren't welcome to return but proudly refer to their own business as unaffiliated. Which side are you on?"
Update: Jason Van Dyke, an attorney for the Proud Boys issued a statement to SFist, "The Proud Boys is a multi-racial men’s fraternal organization founded by Gavin McInnes in 2016. It has diverse membership in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia. Neither The Proud Boys nor Mr. McInnes have ever espoused white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, or alt-right views. Racism and anti-Semitism are not welcome in The Proud Boys. All member and chapters are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, skin color, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. The Proud Boys had nothing to do with the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville and our members were not in attendance. Jason Kessler (the organizer of Unite the Right) is not a member of the fraternity, was not a member of the fraternity when Unite The Right took place, and is not eligible to join the fraternity." (Van Dyke also disclosed that he is a 3rd degree brother in the group.)