The holiday spirit took a hit in recent days after a local business appeared to insult a community advocate on social media.
The Instagram page for The Theodore craft beer bar, which opened this summer, put the call out for people to decorate a nearby tree for the holidays. Justin Evans owns the bar, which is located at 110 East Roosevelt Street.
After that post, things got weird.
The post references Sean Sweat, who works to improve urban spaces as board president for the Urban Phoenix Project.
Here's how The Theodore's post began:
"Tomorrow at 5pm we will be decorating Roosevelt Row's favorite Palo Verde tree (Sean Sweat is his name)!"
The post offered a drink discount to anyone who brought an ornament for the tree. And it contained an unusual hashtag: #seansweatisadick.
Sweat posted a screenshot of the Instagram post on his Facebook page on December 8. Then, people started weighing in, big time.
More than 80 people commented on Sweat's page that day, including many who decried The Theodore for using that particular hashtag. More comments followed.
Sweat has been working for years to increase trees and shade in downtown Phoenix. So it's worth asking whether some of the policies he has supported might be opposed by The Theodore management.
Phoenix New Times reached out to The Theodore through Facebook Messenger on the evening of December 8. "There is no policy regarding trees or shade that we've opposed," it wrote in response.
However, it didn't provide the name of the person who wrote the offensive post and hashtag.
The Theodore sent a follow-up message to New Times the next morning, December 9. “The hashtag and the post were made in lightheartedness,” it begins. “We like Sean and what he has done for downtown Phoenix.”
New Times reached out to Sweat as well. He replied by email Monday morning, saying that he has no comment.
The Theodore has since taken down its post, but Sweat continues to get comments on his Facebook page.
“The reason we took down the post was because people were writing aggressive comments about us and our business,” The Theodore's Monday message to New Times also stated. “It was getting pretty out of hand.”
New Times does not have the name of the person who messaged us, because the writer indicated that they prefer to be quoted as the business.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
In any event, the swift and strong reaction by community members took The Theodore management by surprise. “We are very confused as to why people are reacting in the manner they are and why they think we don’t like trees,” it told New Times in writing, as well.
“We are a new business downtown and seemed to definitely have ruffled some feathers, which we are extremely apologetic for as that was not our intention,” it wrote. The note indicates that it has reached out to Sweat, and says it has yet to hear back from him.
Even so, The Theodore told New Times it’s eager to "mend the damage that's been done."
"We've put a lot of thought into what we're going to do," it wrote. "An apology to Sean personally and publicly is in the works. Although this was lighthearted it's definitely not the best judgment on our end."