CQ pub owner denies alleged racist comment
A FAMILY trip has quickly descended into a moment of 'he said, she said' for Michelle Watson and her family.
On her recent travels to Bribie Island from North Queensland, she and her two young sons pulled into the Marlborough Hotel in what she intended would be a lunch break.
The longstanding establishment is a common pit stop for many passing through the area and is touted online as a friendly family-owned and operated hotel.
However, Mrs Watson alleges her experience at the hotel was anything but welcoming.
The Indigenous woman says that after her family arrived at the hotel on Monday afternoon, she approached owner Bob Jeffries to inquire about the toilet's whereabouts.
Mrs Watson claimed the publican allegedly responded, "blacks have to use the public toilets down the road".
She said her family left the premises immediately both shocked and disgusted.
But while Mr Jeffries confirmed an interaction with Mrs Watson had taken place, he denied making any racist comment.
"The lady came in and asked where the public toilets were, and I said they were down the road," he said.
"I'm not like that (racist) at all; I seriously don't know where this has come from."
Mr Jefferies said he had directed Mrs Watson and her family toward those toilets as she specifically mentioned the public toilets and not the ones on site.
It is understood the hotel also enforces a 'no purchase, no use' rule and has a sign on its toilet door which denies access to patrons unless they have made a purchase in the establishment.
He said it had been a stressful 48 hours since Mrs Watson shared her claims about the alleged incident online.
Supporters of Mrs Watson then took to Marlborough Hotel's Facebook in droves, littering the page with negative reviews and calls to boycott which resulted in the page being temporarily disabled.
Staff members have jumped to defend Mr Jeffries and his wife Anne online, with worker Rhonda Rasmussen rubbishing claims of racist behaviour.
"This is called Chinese whispers. The more the story gets retold the more it changes from the original version," she said.
"The majority of (negative) reviews have come about since the accusations were posted."
Marlborough Hotel's Facebook page was reactivated Tuesday night with a statement addressing the incident posted.
It stated that multiple witnesses were inside the bar at the time Mrs Watson approached the toilet and saw the sign on its door.
"This sign has been on the door for years and clearly outlines paying customers only. Once the lady saw the sign she asked the publican to which direction the toilet was," it said.
"No comment was ever made about race, the only comment made was 100m to the left."
The statement also defended the no purchase policy, claiming Mrs Waterson never mentioned her intention to buy lunch or a drink.
Staff at the hotel said the incident had been reported to police Tuesday morning along with requests that Facebook posts be removed.
"Marlborough Hotel appreciates all the support already given and will continue to welcome all locals, travellers, friends and family."