This article was updated at 5:05 p.m., January 24.
The MAGA hat controversy has made its way to Roosevelt Row, a downtown Phoenix neighborhood dubbed one of the nation’s best art districts. The red hats, reading Make America Great Again, became an early signifier for Donald Trump supporters after the 2015 launch of his presidential campaign.
John Sagasta shared news of the controversy on his personal Facebook page late Wednesday night, January 23. He’s the owner of Jobot Coffee & Bar — a longtime staple of the Roosevelt Row creative scene that’s still mourning the loss of two artists and Jobot employees killed while walking home from work on October 5, 2018.
Sagasta posted an image from the review section of Jobot’s Facebook page, prefacing it with, “Oh man! Here we go!” The image includes a comment by Sienna Kitchen, who wrote: “This coffee shop will kick you out if you are wearing a Make America Great Again hat."
He’s been making his case online, saying the incident that prompted the review has nothing to do with MAGA hats. Phoenix New Times reached out to Sagasta Thursday morning. He responded after the story was published with, "It’s not much of a story. Somewhat typical customer service drama. There was some conflict over a drink between the barista and the customer, after the transaction I guess the customer continued on with their dissatisfaction and the barista asked her to step aside so she could still tend to people in the service line. Then this customer went online and turned things into political racism."
More than 40 people have commented on Sagasta’s post, including Joanna Proffitt, who wrote, “Any chance you will enlighten us re: the original situation?” Sagasta replied, “It’s just customer service drama. Nothing to do with the hat more to do with her being rude to the barista.”
But Don Tyler White doesn't see it that way. He wrote this on the review section for the Jobot Facebook page Wednesday night: "The female whom helped us was rude and told us to leave immediately after giving me and my friend our coffee. when we asked why she said that his hat was making her uncomfortable."
Mike Cosentino has a different take. He's the bar manager at Jobot, where he greeted customers on Thursday wearing a red hat reading "Make Red Hats Wearable Again." He designed the red hats with Paul Horner, and made a limited run for fellow creatives after Horner's death in 2017.
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"The incident actually happened almost a month ago, on First Friday," Cosentino says. He wasn't working at the time, but recalls hearing about how the customer with the "shitty" attitude was treating a pregnant server. "We've had people come in here wearing all kinds of things," he says. "We serve everybody; it wasn't about the hat."
Turns out, there's a sign reading "Open For Business To Everyone" behind the bar at Jobot.
As people continue to weigh in, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time controversy has erupted in downtown Phoenix over issues related to Trump. The artist who painted an anti-Trump billboard on Grand Avenue in March 2017 reported getting death threats. And things didn’t end well during an August 17, 2017, Trump rally in downtown Phoenix.
It’s rare to see a MAGA hat in Roosevelt Row. But odds are, they’ll garner a lot more attention now that social media is stirring the coffee pot.