Woman says she was refused entry at pub over neck tattoos
A SYDNEY make-up artist says she was refused entry at a popular waterside venue owned by hospitality mogul Justin Hemmes, because of her neck and hand tattoos.
Gordana Poljak had planned to attend a friend's birthday drinks at Coogee Pavilion in Sydney's eastern suburbs on Saturday night, but was told by security and the venue's manager that she was not allowed inside because of her tattoos.
The striking single mum is the former wife of media personality Mike Willesee with whom she has a teenage son, Rok. She is also the former fiance of chef Jason Roberts.
"They stopped me and said 'I'm sorry you can't come in' and I said 'Why? I'm here often, I was here a couple weeks ago'. They said 'Your tattoos'," Ms Poljak told news.com.au.
"I said 'I always get in with my tattoos. I'm upstairs [at the bar] a lot'. They said 'You're going to have to take that up with the manager'," Ms Poljak said.
"The manager didn't even say 'Look, I'm really sorry, that's the situation, the rules have just come out, you might have been allowed a couple weeks ago'. There was no niceness about it, it was like 'Nup sorry'. They treated me like crap."
Ms Poljak, who has worked with big name clients including Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe and Pierce Brosnan, is known for her love of intricate ink.
The makeup artist and cosmetician lives in Coogee and is confused by what she says is the venue's inconsistent admissions policy. After initially being told she wasn't allowed inside at all, management later said she was only permitted in the downstairs dining area, which is popular with families and young children.
"They said 'You're allowed to go to the family section'. I can go downstairs and allow all the kiddies see me tattooed neck to hand but I can't go upstairs with the adults," Ms Poljak said.
"I was dressed nicely, my hair was up. It's not like I looked like I was going to beat someone up or do drugs in the bathroom.
"I'm a regular, I love it there. We've never had any trouble but this time they treated me like s**t.
"I don't care if people don't like my tattoos. I get it all the time, but to actually be turned away from avenue I was treated like that. I should not be cricitised for having neck and hand tattoos," she said.
News.com.au understands hotel licensees are allowed to deny entry to anyone, as long as they do not breach anti-discrimination laws, and they are not required to provide a reason.
According to the NSW discrimination laws, "unlawful" types of discrimination include treating someone unfairly because of their age, race, sex, disability, sexuality, because someone is transgender or due to their marital or domestic status.
Mr Hemmes is the CEO of hospitality group Merivale, which runs more than 20 popular bars and restaurants all over Sydney.
The "pub king" is famous for buying old pubs and spending millions on glamorous renovations to create trendy, bustling hot spots. He bought the Coogee Pavilion in March 2014 for a cool $37 million. Last December, he purchased Mascot's The Tennyson Hotel, in Sydney's south, also for $37 million.
Ms Poljak says she has been texting with Mr Hemmes and he has apologised. News.com.au has contacted Merivale for comment but is yet to receive a response.
Ms Poljak posted about the incident on her Facebook page and has received hundreds of messages of support.
Some commenters posted links to photos on Coogee Pavilion's Facebook page, which showed tattooed patrons partying at the venue's upstairs bar.
"It seems that this same policy doesn't apply to the tattooed rugby league players who frequent this venue ... appalling," one person wrote.
"Gee [sic] half the chefs, footballers and the public in Sydney have tattoos, well written gorgeous #standwithGordana," another commented.
"No person has the right to judge your attendance based on your choice of body adornment," Ms Poljak wrote on Facebook.
"I love my tattoos, to me [they] resemble encouragement, diversity, and adversity. If I had as many hotels as you Justin, I would encourage more acceptance of others," she wrote.