The Stoneleigh P, the fabled restaurant and bar across the street from the Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, has found itself in your typical internet and media storm — if your typical internet storm involved insulting the many, many fans of Mariah Carey’s holiday song, “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
The bar has made it clear it would rather not have Mariah Carey over for Christmas — or at least not have to hear her song repeatedly — until December 1st, thank you very much. So says a sign on the bar’s jukebox. It bans the song until December and then limits it to one play per evening.
Cue the viral outrage from the fans of “the Queen of Christmas” — and all the media outlets eager for any holiday story about a different sort of “war on Christmas,” one that doesn’t involve toy shortages, travel cancellations or partisan sniping.
But the ‘war’ is more like a skirmish. Or a shrug. The Stoneleigh’s patrons aren’t exactly curmudgeons gearing up for battle. A wet Tuesday afternoon found a decent crowd there — “rainy days are the best for business,” said manager Laura Garrison — and some classic rhythm-and-blues could be heard behind all the chatter and clatter.
Mason Pearce, a sales rep from Forney who was there Tuesday, said, “I am not opposed” to banning “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
Not that listening to Carey’s song repeatedly every day is the problem, he said. “I just don’t mind not hearing it.”
As for hearing it once an evening starting December 1st, Pearce allowed that “it’s still going to be brutal. But I’d put up with it, I guess — because it’s Christmas.”
Garrison, the Stoneleigh P manager, said the jukebox sign actually went up three years ago. If it hadn’t been tweeted this year, it’s doubtful any of the media attention would have happened.
The ban’s been around long enough that there’s a remote control to the jukebox behind the bar. And the waitstaff know that whenever someone selects the mega-hit and the sleigh bells start, it’s immediately stopped.
So – what prompted the ban?
“Just annoyance,” Garrison said with a chuckle. “You know, you get alcohol and people that want to hear Christmas songs in September — that’s a no go.”
Garrison, who’s the daughter of the bar owner, Tom Garrison — and therefore, not likely to lose her job over the ruckus — said the Stoneleigh’s ban on “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was originated by a bartender. But she typed up the current sign herself.
“It’s a tradition,” she said.
As for any angry feedback on social media, “we have gotten six bad [online] reviews in the last 24 hours. That hurt.”
But none of the reviewers, Garrison added, appear to have actually visited the Stoneleigh P.
“The people coming in — people think it’s funny.”
Last week, Kyle Smith, a National Review reporter, posted a photo of the Stoneleigh’s jukebox sign on Twitter. “Fans are outraged,” declared CNN about the avid Carey followers known as “Lambily” or just “lambs.”
But Carey herself delivered a more tongue-in-cheek response. She tweeted an image of herself in battle armor, asking, “is this the war on Christmas I’ve heard about?”
That some patrons might actually enjoy hearing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” again — despite its near-universal dominance every holiday season — is clear from the fact that its sales can only be estimated as somewhere north of 17 million copies. Late Tuesday, Apple Music listed the current, 100 top-selling singles on the site, putting Carey at #48. But it’s still only early November — and Carey has a new holiday show and a new holiday song coming out.
But overlooked in the headlines and tweets is that Carey’s single is not even being singled out for the kill-switch treatment at the Stoneleigh P. Other verboten numbers are “Frosty the Snowman” and Roger Miller’s “You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd” from 1965.
Why this rather odd trio?
One reason, it seems, is regular patron Larry Green, a 62-year-old electrical contractor from Dallas. He selects those three songs every day he’s there, he said.
“To irritate the staff.”
The Mariah Carey song, in particular, he said with a laugh, is so well known to everybody at the Stoneleigh, “it makes it about one bar in, and they know exactly what that sound is, and it’s gone.”
Green is hardly the only offender, Garrison said. “Actually, lots of people play it just to hear it skipped.”
In other words, over the past three years, the ban has become both a tradition and something of a teasing, holiday game of ‘tag’ between patrons and staff.
But then, why does Green enjoy tormenting the restaurant’s employees like this?
“They’re all my friends.”