Pappy’s owner responds to discrimination charges

Photo: Pappy's Sports Bar & Grill/Facebook
Pappy’s Grill at 2367 Telegraph Ave. has been accused of racially biased hiring practices. Photo: Pappy’s Sports Bar & Grill/Facebook

Pappy’s Grill & Sports Bar is a magnet for Cal students and sports fans, slinging burgers, wings, and affordable draft beers for them on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue. It is also the subject of recent allegations of racially biased hiring practices.

On Friday, Jan. 22, Brownyn Harris took a photo of two hiring signs posted on the window of Pappy’s. One sign, written entirely in Spanish, requested applicants for a dishwashing position. A second sign, written entirely in English, requested applicants for cashiers and bartenders.

Harris posted the photo to Pappy’s Facebook page with the comment: “Took this picture today after we were walking by and my boyfriend said ‘I don’t really speak Spanish but is that incredibly racist?'” Her post caught the attention of the East Bay Express, which ran a story on Jan. 29 alleging discriminatory hiring practices on the part of Pappy’s.

While Pappy’s owner, Alex Popov, did not comment to the East Bay Express, he did talk to NOSH this week about the uproar the signs provoked. “There was a lot of irony and misunderstanding in the article,” he said, referring to the East Bay Express story.


Before talking with NOSH, the bar did run a response to the criticism that was being leveled at it on its Facebook page:

“As a small business owner operating in Berkeley for over 20 years, employing over 400 employees during that time, it’s pretty surprising you are insinuating we discriminate in our hiring practices,” it read. It continued: “If you were actually a customer of Pappy’s you might notice we have 3 African American bartenders and an American Indian bartender. We support diversity and equality and we wouldn’t have been able to operate in Berkeley without that approach… Specific to your question about the signs for certain positions, yes we had a sign, in Spanish only, for a dishwasher. Why? Because our two Chefs (who have been with us for 15 and 8 years respectively) and our prep cooks use Spanish as a primary language and often our dishwasher helps with prep. So to make our prep kitchen more efficient we require our dishwasher to speak Spanish. So, by posting the sign in Spanish only, we save time by not interviewing people who don’t speak Spanish.” (Read the full response.)

Signs at Pappy's. Photo: Bronwyn Harris
The original job posting signs at Pappy’s. Photo: Bronwyn Harris

Commenters on Facebook were generally not satisfied with Pappy’s response.

David Judysson Olson wrote: “Say which jobs require English proficiency and why, and say which jobs require Spanish proficiency and why. You might have people who only read English see your signs and recommend the job requiring Spanish to a Spanish-speaking friend, and someone who can only read the Spanish sign might recommend the jobs requiring English to a friend who speaks English… Even if your intent is simplicity for yourselves, this type of unequal advertising fosters segregation in the workplace.”

Nancy Carleton added that the story painted a poor picture for new customers: “It’s important that you understand that it sure looks like discriminatory hiring practices on that initial viewing. Rather than responding defensively, you’d be wise to consult at least informally with someone who knows the basics of crisis management… This is even more important if you feel whatever offense you caused was inadvertent or feel that you genuinely don’t discriminate.”


Speaking to NOSH, Popov reiterated the statement that Pappy’s does not discriminate during hiring.

“Our record speaks for itself,” he said. “Anyone who is actually a customer can come in and see first hand the diversity at all different levels of our staff… Only 20% of our staff is Caucasian. None of our managers are Caucasian,” he said.

Popov said that the two signs, which have been taken down, were posted by the kitchen manager and bar manager, and they were both posted on two separate days. “We give our employees a lot of responsibility by… encouraging bar and kitchen managers to do the first round in the hiring process,” he said. “But now we’re being accused of keeping people back.”

He added that he has spoken with his managers to improve the process by posting all signs in both English and Spanish. “That will be the procedure going forward,” he said.

Meanwhile, Popov is still working on his new beer garden and music venue project at 2367 Shattuck Ave. The project has undergone construction delays due to a shortage of available sub-contractors. “It’s the downside of building in a boom time,” he said.


Pappy’s is still hiring for dishwashers, cashiers and bartenders, and Popov hopes to have new staff members on board for the Super Bowl.

Pappy’s Sports Bar & Grill is at 2367 Telegraph Ave. (at Durant Avenue), Berkeley. Connect with the bar on Facebook and Instagram.

Want to keep up-to-date on all the food, drink and restaurant news in the East Bay? Subscribe to NOSH Weekly, the free weekly email packed with delicious news. Simply sign up here.