When I walked through the front doors of BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, notebook in hand, and inquired where I could find the Bach party, the hosts were decidedly unfriendly.
"Are you a reporter?" one inquired.
"Yes," I said.
"Well, you're not allowed," he said.
At first I thought it was a joke.
"Excuse me?" I asked.
Then another host intervened. OK, he said, you can come in, but you can only talk to Mr. Bach. And no photos.
"Um, OK," I said.
I was led into a back room, where the private party was taking place. Outside, on a patio, I could see media lined up, staring in the windows like second-class citizens.
Bach, though, was friendly, and chatted briefly with me before addressing the crowd. While Bach was giving his speech, a gentleman struck up a casual conversation with me. The basic, "Hi, how ya doin'."
The host who had let me in came over and told me that if I didn't stop talking, he'd throw me out on the patio. The gentleman looked incredulous.
"What's going on?" he wanted to know. "You're not allowed to talk to me?"
"Apparently," I told him, "I'm not allowed to talk to anyone."
After the excitement of election night died down, I was still left wondering, "What the hell?" So, yesterday morning, I went on BJ's website, but could find no reference to any anti-media policy. The only way to contact the corporate headquarters was by filling out an online form or sending a letter. I filled out the form.
Then I called the Colorado Springs location. The person who answered the phone informed me that BJ's policy banned reporters. But he wouldn't go into detail, instead giving me a number to the business office. The business office transferred me. Eventually, I ended up leaving a voicemail.
As of today, I have yet to get a phone call or an e-mail from BJ's.
I did however, hear back from Laura Carno, from the Bach campaign. I had left a message for Carno asking whether the Bach campaign was aware of BJ's odd command-and-control policies.
"We were aware of their media policy, but only after we had sent out our announcement and felt it was too late to change the location," Carno said in a voicemail to me. "We thought it was unusual as well, so we will find a more media-friendly place for May 17."
It's hard to imagine why BJ's is so terrified of the press. I mean, we're talking about a restaurant and bar, not a cocaine distribution point, right? What's to be so scared of?
Whatever the case, I would like to offer a tip to BJ's for future reference: If you hate the press, don't agree to host an election night party for a political candidate.
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