March 14, 2009
No service for gays
I'd heard bits about this last night on Twitter, but via an email from Carl Whitmarsh I've learned the details of a nasty little incident. The following is a press release from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus:
Nearly 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were refused entry to Union Bar and Lounge in Midtown Friday while others were welcomed.
Patrons started lining up at about 9:40 p.m. and were told to wait in line and not allowed inside, even as straight-appearing people were waved through. As the line grew and patrons waited in the rain, employees at the door told those who were that they were maintaining a "ratio." Later, the bar employees simply indicated they had the right to refuse anyone.
"I was shocked to be a victim of that kind of discrimination in a city like Houston in 2009," said Neal Falgoust, a Houston law student. "I have never experienced anything like that before in my life."
A patron who arrived at the bar early reported that the bar was nearly empty at about 9:40 p.m., when gay people started arriving and were stopped at the door.
Gay people continued to line up to the street and around the corner as people who appeared to be straight went to the front and were ushered in. Kris Banks, who stood at the front of the line, said the bar employees were asking the women who were entering with men if the men were accompanying them. If the men were with the women, they were allowed in.
"I arrived and heard that they were not allowing gay men in, so when I got to the door with three women I asked if we would be allowed in, and the door employee said 'I was told to keep you out,' " said Lindsey Dionne. "This was supposed to be a social event, but now it's political."
That this kind of discrimination is still legal in Houston makes it more outrageous. A coalition of GLBT rights groups, including the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, the Harris County Impact Houston and Amicus at South Texas College of Law said Saturday that the incident is proof of the necessity of legal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity for public accommodations.
"Houston is the only major city in Texas without a law that prevents this kind of discrimination," said Jerry Simoneaux, GLBT civil rights lawyer. "This incident is exactly the reason Houston should implement such an ordinance."
The event was organized as Houston's first "Guerilla Gay Bar," a tongue-in-cheek event that has been popular in other cities in which GLBT individuals come to traditionally straight bars to interact with other communities. Though Guerilla Gay Bars are usually a surprise event in other cities, Houston organizers informed the bar owner in advance out of courtesy and were told they would be welcomed.
One could charitably presume that there must have been some kind of miscommunication between the bar owner and the bar staff. If so - really, whether or not this is so - some kind of apology ought to be forthcoming from the Union Bar and Lounge for its atrocious behavior. I surely hope they don't want this incident to be seen as typical for their business.
UPDATE: Hair Balls noted the "Guerilla Gay Bar" concept a couple of days ago. There are now two groups on Facebook for those who want to register their disapproval with the Union Bar.
UPDATE: On Yelp, at least one person who was there last night is disputing this account.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 14, 2009 to Elsewhere in Houston
"As an active member of the gay and lesbian community I need to chime in here. We targeted union bar last night as part of our gay awareness program. I really don't like to do this to "known" gay friendly bars. Union is gay friendly by the way! We had all met prior Thursday at Montrose Mining Company to discuss the plan. What we do is go to a straight bar and "rush' the door. Confuse eveyone and then cause a big scene to get people aware that in 2009 Gay pride is stronger then ever. To again promote gay awareness. Sadly some of my boys took it a little to far and started yelling at the door boys and managers. I understand that they never thought 150 gay men and women would come all at once. No one was turned away as I later found out they were full and couldn't let anyone else in. Myself and Devon came back to union later that night and had a really nice time. Loved the free shots! The music was good and everyone was having a good time without the drama we had caused prior in the evening. I for one will not take part of the Gay Bar awareness program. Its hurting business and we are taking it to far. Union Bar is 1000% Gay friendly."
"Union Bar on behalf of the gay and lesbian community, myself and my partner, we apologize for the nonsense and silliness we caused last night." - posted on Yelp
This smacks of the "gay governor" rumor and of course the same name is attached to both. Need you say more?
All businesses indeed have the right to refuse business to anyone. Years ago Studio One in Los Angeles actually did discriminate. Against straight women. About the same time the Depository here in Houston did the same thing. Until one night when the doorman didn't realize the woman he had just rudely told wasn't welcome was Sally Struthers.
The charge of discrimination in this can go both ways. Simply because it always has.
Some of us gave up on Rich's years ago because we could never figure out which was "straight" night and which was "gay" night and which was "our" night.
Some of us who remembered the days of Rich's and Studio One in Los Angeles and Studio 54 in New York, yes I really AM that old, when everyone just went to dance. And didn't care who else was dancing.
But times change. What doesn't change it attitudes and what is appropriate.
It's a shame Gilley's isn't still open. I would love to see the fist-fights that would erupt when two men or two women took the dance floor. There's a place for everything but not for everyone and at times some choose the wrong places to declare themselves liberated in.
It looks like Union Bar is the one owed the apology but apart from what was posted on Yelp, I doubt one will be offered.
The governor is gay and Union Bar discriminates.
So say the gay gadflys and gossipmongers.
While this is disturbing to read, Union Bar is hardly the only bar in town screening the people they let in. Pandoras and The Drake on Washington Avenue both screen those who line up to enter their establishment and only let in "the beautiful people" (a dubious distinction, considering these "beautiful people" cause our neighborhood many problems with their wee hours fighting, puking, pissing, and disruptiveness inside the residential area). Union Bar just screened based on gender preference. Same happenstance, different criteria. Neither admirable.
Leigh is correct. There have been a number of cases documented on blogs about The Drake, Pandora and others not allowing people in who don't fit their standards including blocking entrance to minorities.
It's a ridiculous and disgusting practice.
The screening is part of the "allure" of the clubs - to be part of the "in" crowd by being "allowed in" but it is important to note it started with the "discos" in the 1970s which were all "open" to begin with but for some reason tended at one point to become more "gay-oriented" and did exclude women unless they were, pardon the expression, one of the more "interesting" of what were called the fag hags. Why be polite about this since an impolite accusation of discrimination has been made, denied by someone who took part in it, against a club that otherwise wouldn't have been accused of discrimination?
And it sounds more and more as if some simply wanted it to appear that Union Bar discriminates simply because it didn't let 150 people in "just because."
Businesses are allowed to refuse service to anyone. "Just because." And the gay bars and clubs discriminate just as much as the straight bars and clubs and the "open" bars and clubs. Often the reason is the doorman doesn't like your "look" which happened all the time at the discos. Has nothing to do with race or gender or sexual orientaion. Has to do with the "look" the doorman likes. Usually a gay doorman who wanted a certain "look" for the particular evening.
Strike a pose and hope the doorman likes it. Otherwise, try again another night.
It's a brutal world. Made more brutal by being told you are not "acceptable for the evening." Of course the next evening, you become the star.
It's all silliness tied into ego including the egos involved in this.