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  Mass. Probing Toy Monkey Complaints

The Associated Press
Saturday, Feb. 26, 2000; 1:04 p.m. EST

BOSTON –– After hearing dozens of complaints, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has opened an investigation into whether a tavern's display of toy monkeys was meant to mock Black History Month.

The Boston Licensing Board received 41 formal complaints about the bar's display on Friday alone.

The owner of Tom English's Cottage, Tom English Jr., denied that the monkeys, hanging from vines, were set up as a racist joke. He said the display was no different than the clowns, fish and cartoon characters he puts up during the year.

"My only intent was to make my bar a better place," he said.

But a bartender told the Boston Herald that the display was for Black History Month, and that it included a toy gorilla wearing a crown for Martin Luther King. The Herald did not identify the bartender in stories published Friday and Saturday.

The investigation was announced Friday by Charles Walker Jr., chairman of the Commission Against Discrimination.

"This kind of conduct is deeply offensive to all decent Americans, as well as being illegal, and if our investigation confirms these allegations, we will take appropriate action," he said.

The Boston Licensing Board, which licenses bars and restaurants, is expected to vote Thursday to hold a public hearing to determine if any action should be taken against the bar, said spokeswoman Kathleen McNally.

A statement apologizing for any "misconception" was hung in the bar Friday night.

"Please accept my apology for any insult allegedly made by one of my bartenders," English said. "There was no intent for this at all."

© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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