Publican tries to make sense of poster backlash

A Liverpool publican is claiming there has been a near-boycott of his pub after a Guinness promotional poster featuring the Ku Klux Klan was put up in his absence.

Jojo Moyes reports.

Landlord Peter Doherty, 39, says that the Stag's Head, near Toxteth, has suffered since the prototype poster, which features Ku Klux Klan members under Guinness's current advertising slogan "Not everything in black and white makes sense", appeared in his pub in September.

Mr Doherty claims the poster must have been put up by a Guinness representative while he was away on business. When he returned, he said, his largely multicultural clientele accused him of being a racist. Windows and furnishings were damaged and the pub was shunned by locals.

Although he had immediately removed the poster, local students and medical personnel, who had previously formed much of his custom, he claimed, shunned the pub.

"Reps come by a lot, to do promotions and put posters or banners up, or give out beer mats. On this particular occasion I was off on business," he said.

"When I came back, a couple of days later, people had complained and called me a racist. We had a broken table, broken glasses, and some of the furniture had been slashed. Our windows got broken in the middle of the night. We'd never had anything like this before."

Mr Doherty claims he has had so many telephone calls accusing him of being racist and "white trash" that he has been forced to disconnect his telephone and use a pager.

"It shouldn't have happened. It's distasteful to me, and I'm white. We're only two miles from Toxteth here, and it's just not a good idea to stir up racial tensions in this area."

But a spokesman for Guinness yesterday said that the local salesman had not visited the pub during the time concerned. He said it was a mystery as to where the poster had come from, as the only copies of that particular design had been shelved at proof stage.

"We were producing the commercial and this was one of the scenes in the original script. We proofed up some posters, and they went out to some of the sales force, but then we did some research with consumers and found that this particular Ku Klux Klan theme was perhaps tending to cause offence with coloured people," he said.

"We subsequently took the decision to withdraw it, as the last thing we wanted to do was offend. The whole reason for putting the Ku Klux Klan in was to ridicule them." The spokesman added that Guinness wanted to get to the bottom of the matter, and had instructed its lawyers to investigate further.