A recent incident at a popular downtown Hillsborough hangout raised tensions and concerns about the presence of hate groups in the area, spurring the business owners to implement changes to address the issue.
The incident occurred June 26, when Hillsborough resident Colin Dodd stepped outside the Hot Tin Roof to smoke a cigarette. While outside, Dodd made small talk and gave a cigarette to another man, thinking nothing of it. And then, Dodd said, he noticed the man’s t-shirt had the words “Proud Boys” printed on it.
The Proud Boys group is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as having an “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt” agenda. While the group claims to reject bigotry, members and leaders of the group have appeared with hate groups at extremist gatherings, such as the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017. Members also were involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“I was totally shocked,” Dodd said. “I asked him how committed he was to that movement.” Dodd said the man indicated he was very committed, but he disagreed with breaking into the Capitol.
Dodd said he was nervous about confronting the man in the Proud Boys t-shirt. He also admitted he was not calm about the situation, became animated, and said to the man he wouldn’t be welcome at the bar. Dodd said one of the Hot Tin Roof owners, Kim Tesoro, was nearby, and he felt certain the Proud Boys member would be asked to leave. Dodd, who said he regularly visited Hot Tin Roof prior to Covid, and enjoyed karaoke nights and watching bands play there, was concerned for the bar’s diverse mix of customers.
He said he approached Tesoro, pointing out the Proud Boys t-shirt and insisting he shouldn’t be at the bar. He said Tesoro asked him to “calm down.” Ultimately, Dodd became concerned about his own safety and decided to leave the Hot Tin Roof.
But he wasn’t finished. In the days since the incident, Dodd has aired his grievances to other media outlets, and campaigned on social media for changes he believes should be made in the town’s leadership. Tesoro is CEO of the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce. She and Mark Bateman, who is also a co-owner of the Hot Tin Roof, serve on the Town of Hillsborough Tourism Board.
The town has some authority to remove board members, but has no power over the chamber.
The owners of the Hot Tin Roof issued a post on Facebook , and then an official statement through its attorney, touting a “long history of inclusivity and diversity with our clients which we have worked very hard to ensure as a reflection of our own beliefs and convictions.” The statement continued, adding the establishment did not endorse or support any kind of racist behavior.
In addition, the Hot Tin Roof statement outlined changes it was putting in place, or had already put into place in hopes of preventing this kind of situation from arising again. “Effective immediately, we are posting rules that absolutely prohibit anyone from wearing or bringing to our business any kind of insignia, emblems, etc. which represents any kind of hate group, including specifically the Proud Boys. Should any event like this happen again, staff will be trained to use the rules to have the person or persons removed from the premises immediately,” the statement said.
Efforts to reach the bars owners for comment were directed to the released statement.