Finnegan’s Irish Pub And Grill In Stockton, Calif., Uses Facebook As A Velvet Rope

By David Cohen 

Finnegan’s Irish Pub and Grill in Stockton, Calif., turned to a novel solution to combat an epidemic of bar fights: Only Facebook friends are admitted into the establishment after 9 p.m.

ABC News’ Consumer Report blog reported on the unusual use of the social network, with owner Tony Mannor telling ABC News crime in the area spurred him to start the process two years ago:

There was a restaurant that was a block down that was notorious for fights and, recently, a minor got shot and survived, but that was the last straw, and the landlord couldn’t take it anymore, so they were evicted. We also really wanted to expand our community involvement, and we couldn’t do that as just a bar. We decided to run the guestbook seven days a week. We rarely have any problems, and everything has been good every month.

What we did at first was enforce it on Friday nights, the worst night for fights, and we implemented Facebook Friday, and it completely eliminated the fights we were having. We started implementing it on Saturday nights, as well, and it eliminated fights and troubles we were having.

“We accept almost all friend requests … as long as you were basically a non-gang member. You’d be surprised at how many people put gang stuff on their Facebook, and that is prevalent in Stockton.

We knew who you were and, if you became a problem, you could get off the list. Also, you don’t have to be on the guest list to be able to enter. We do leave a certain amount of space for people not on the list, but we monitor them very closely. We are not excluding somebody, but it is like a standing reservation — about 80 percent of the list and about 20 percent friends of or not on the list.

Mannor told ABC News the staff at Finnegan’s is required to learn the names of the more than 7,000 people on its guest list, adding that after initial worries that the policy would hurt business at the bar, employees support the policy, and saying:

We are trying to build a community where everyone knows everyone’s name and, in Stockton, which is a medium-sized town, I can walk around and recognize people and they can recognize me. It promotes a sense of safety and community. If you don’t have rapport with your clientele, we can’t build relationships and keep the place as safe as we can.

My staff had initial concern that it was going to drive people away, but the opposite has happened, where every other nighttime place has been dying off, but we have been increasing by numbers. We have been adding 100 people on my guest list per month, and business is booming.

As for accusations that the bar’s guest-list policy was discriminatory, Mannor told ABC News:

Half my staff is non-white, and my family is mixed heritage, and it’s amusing to me (that) people say this. I don’t broadcast that because it’s nobody’s business, and when someone is turned away, they assume it’s something they cannot control rather than what they can. I think people are just excited to be part of a community that is positive within a city that keeps being beaten up by the negative. We have people coming in, members of law enforcement, and they’ll tell their wives and daughters: If you need to go somewhere, come here. That is the ultimate compliment.

Readers: What do you think of the guest-list policy at Finnegan’s?