My dad owned a bar. It was an Irish bar, in so much as my dad is Irish-American and likes to surround himself with signed photos of Paul Hornung, hurleys, and framed copies of the Easter Proclamation of 1916. (You could look those things up, or just close your eyes and imagine you are sitting in a standard-issue Irish pub on the East Coast of the United States.)
There weren't too many genuine Paddys around to lend their sweet lilting brogues to the proceedings, but when there were, my father would generally leap at the chance to hire one. It was good business to have a bit of the auld sod about the place. It lent an authenticity that went beyond a jukebox stocked with the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. It set my dad's place apart. Without it, Hennessey's was just another gin joint with a sticky floor.
As an adult, I worked in more than a few Irish bars in New York City. Although I was born and bred in the green fields of northern New Jersey, in the heat of battle I would occasionally affect a bit of an accent if I thought it might make me money. This game had to be played carefully as it could easily lead to the question no impostor ever wants to hear: Where are you from?
I never lied. I always fessed up. But if pressed, I would firmly deny that I was trying to pass myself off as an Irishman.
"It's just an occupational hazard," I'd say, noting that everybody else in the place was Irish. "Hard not to pick it up, you know what I mean? It just seeps in." Slink. Slink. Slink.
To me, speaking in an Irish accent was worth the embarrassment of occasionally getting caught because it made business sense. People go to an Irish bar to get the Irish thing. The pasta tastes better in an Italian restaurant when you think the guys in the back are all from Naples or Calabria. You go up to Harlem to get soul food made by people who embody that culture and know how to present it.
So what do we make of this?
A Welsh pub in New York is facing a fine after advertising for staff with knowledge of Welsh culture.
Michael Colbert, originally from Wrexham, and his American wife Jennifer have been accused of discrimination.
They say they face a fine of $7,500 (£4,800) if they lose their case over the LongBow pub in Brooklyn.
They claim the advert wanted someone with a "specific skill set" but the New York City Commission of Human Rights said it believed it was discrimination.
Yes, New York City has a Commission of Human Rights. Yes, they are spending scarce resources on this nonsense. Yes, it is absurd. Yes. Yes. Yes. Bloomberg. Bloomberg. Bloomberg.
But ... is there something here? Isn't this really a question about where to draw the line? We don't want businesses refusing to hire people because of their gender, or the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation. We get that and appreciate it. But a business can refuse to hire you if you don't have the right training or the right education, can't they? When does that process of discrimination verge into something sinister. Someone has to set a standard, right?
I suppose, but when you set up a Human Rights Commission to find and eliminate discrimination in your city, that commission is going to keep searching for a problem until it finds one. And if it can't find one, it will define discrimination down until it does.
My dad's place had a sign behind the bar claiming that management had the right to refuse service to ANYONE for ANY REASON. A great many people were denied service simply because they were drunk. That's about as clear a violation of human rights as I can think of, yet no one ever complained to the authorities. Probably because when their heads cleared, they realized how silly they had been.
Maybe the same thing will happen here.