Amanda Cheromiah (Laguna Pueblo) recently earned her doctorate in higher education from the University of Arizona, and returned home to the Santa Fe area to reconnect with family and friends during a brief visit from Tucson, Arizona, where she now lives. But what was meant to be a fun night out over the weekend soured, Cheromiah says in a recent semi-viral Tik-Tok video, when an employee of the Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room in downtown Santa Fe displayed a pattern of discrimination by refusing her party service on Saturday night—and then offering service to a white party that came in shortly afterward.
“We were not the only people there,” Chermoiah tells SFR. “This is very quaint, small spot, and it has that homey feel, so when you go into the main area, you can easily see everybody in that space. There were other customers, musicians playing, and I was thinking it’s a really cool spot, I’d like to take my mom there.”
Cheromiah says she believes the server on duty acknowledged her party, but that shortly after their arrival, he made his way outside where he stayed in conversation with a former Tasting Room employee for well over 10 minutes.
“By this point, we were wondering why we weren’t getting served,” she says. “My friend went to the doorway and asked the waiter two questions in a very calm voice: ‘Are you the only bartender here, and can we get service?’ The server responded that [my friend] was being condescending, and then he refused to give service.”
Chermoiah says she asked to speak with a manager, and that the server provided a business card as none was on duty, at which point she and her party left the Tasting Room.
“It appeared to me he didn’t want to serve us because he acknowledged us after we came in, so I perceived it as racism,” she tells SFR. “There was no justifiable reason to not give service—and, as we were leaving, a group of three or four elderly folks came in and sat on the patio, and [the server] went to them right away to get them menus. I knew we were being discriminated against.”
Chermoiah made a Tik-Tok video about the experience right then and there.
Cheromiah says she then called Tasting Room Manager Weston Simons to file a complaint. Following a number of phone conversations, she explains, Simons offered her and her friends some free drinks as recompense, and told her the server wanted to apologize. In a subsequent phone call, Cheromiah explains, he did so—”for his lack of time management,” she notes.
“I told him I forgive him, and that it’s a stark example of how we are treated differently,” she says. “There’s a lot of weight to that. Indigenous narratives are often thwarted and we have a long history of our narratives being misused. But I welcome the chance to share my experience, and I told [Simons] that I hoped they’d consider it a strong learning lesson, and that I encouraged them to look on social media and see what the conversation was about.”
At that point, according to Cheromiah, she declined the offer for free drinks and Simons told her the server would be written up. But as her Tik-Tok video gained legs through other social media platforms, things changed. In Facebook and Instagram posts from Sunday, Santa Fe Spirits management takes responsibility for the server’s actions.
Additionally, in a brief conversation this morning, Simons confirms to SFR that the server has been fired, and that sensitivity training will indeed now be mandatory for all employees.
“We have a zero tolerance policy for any discrimination,” he says.
“We’ve never had anything like this, so this is completely new to us,” adds Santa Fe Spirits owner Colin Keegan. “We’re very inclusive and this has completely blind-sided us. We’re looking for a company for the training, but we talked with Amanda earlier, and we hear she’s going to put up another, different video that describes in a factual way what happened, and we’re very happy about that. I will say the social media viral-ness of this was shocking. I’m not used to things moving this fast.”
Cheromiah tells SFR she’s ultimately satisfied with the direction in which things are going following the incident, and that she doesn’t blame the company as a whole for the actions of one employee. She also says she understands the power of social media when it comes to impacting the reputation of a small, locally owned business.
“As an Indigenous woman, it’s unfortunate I have to defend myself and educate people, right?” she says. “But I recognize the platform I have and, even more so with this, that there’s a lot of power in my voice. Though it is unfortunate I have to do this, I do take on the responsibility, because people just don’t know. My sole purpose as an Indigenous woman is to amplify my narrative and give back to our people. I recognize this and welcome the chance to share my experience—but also to share recommendations to prevent it happening again.”