Outrage in Houston After Bar Refuses Entrance to Gays

Houston1

A "guerrila gay bar" event has put the focus on a Houston nightclub after gays who came to participate were forced to stand in line in the rain and never admitted while the club ushered in straight patrons instead, according to a press release from the Houston LGBT caucus.

Houston2These types of events are typically "stealth"  activist events meant to force interaction between gay and straight people in a harmless social setting. This one was not stealth, however. Organizers had sought permission from the club's owner beforehand. The bar owner of Union Bar and Lounge in midtown had told them they would be welcome.

That wasn't the case, apparently. Attendees claim that gays were told to wait outside in the rain while straight clientele was ushered inside (link to PDF):

"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. 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."

Said Lindsey Dionne: "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.’ This was supposed to be a social event, but now it’s political."

The bar owner denies the charges, saying the bar was at capacity. KHOU Houston report here.

A bill was recently filed in the Texas House that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We Will Not Go There

Comments

  1. Quint King says

    >A bill was recently filed in the Texas House that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    Makes it sound like in Texas the bar acted within Texas law. Is this true?

  2. Andrew K says

    Well, i’ll probably get panned for saying this, but I think the bar owner has a right. The honest thing would’ve been for the bar owner to say to the organizers that he had concerns about his clientele and their group mixing, and to tell them to please not come.

    I’ve seen gay bars in Austin put up a $20 cover charge and then give “guest” tickets for clearly gay men to go in for free. This apparently was done to keep the bar from being overwhelmed by curious straight women and bachelorette parties.

    Frankly, I think it’s all right to do that. I want to be able to head to a gay bar that’s predominantly gay men, especially as gay neighborhoods are starting to beome a thing of the past and there is significant mixing of communities – which is healthy for the most part.

    But it was unfair of the bar owner to be two-faced about it and keep the group from going elsewhere. He’s definitely an a-hole.

    Also, there’s a difference between having an “unusual mix” for one night, which has potential for giving people a fun experience, and having an undesired group of people take over your themed bar entirely on a permanent basis.

    I also don’t support that law as proposed. It would be very easy then for the straight majority to invade gay bars on a permanent basis and force them into very out-of-the-way areas in order to remain predominantly gay.

  3. 24play says

    Andrew K is absolutely right. It would be simply dreadful if a bunch of colored folk showed up one night at my predominantly white neighborhood bar. The whole vibe would be ruined!

  4. Don in SF says

    Not a surprise, really. The same thing happened to my friends and me when we tried to attend an equivalent event at Beauty Bar in the Mission. All “gay” men were stopped at the door by the bouncers and told to wait outside because there were “too many men inside”. Women were let in. “Straight appearing” men were also let it. It IS illegal in California and SF to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender. We pointed that out to the bouncers and the manager. They laughed at us.

  5. Eric says

    People have a constitutional right to association. I don’t think private clubs are covered under public accommodations so even if there was a anti-discrimination law that included sexual orientation, I don’t think a bar would be forced to admit everyone.

  6. Rebeck says

    Ok, I don’t agree with the club’s actions…because it brings back my own memories of being kept of GAY bars in several Texas cities in the ancient days of the early 80’s because of “no open-toed shoes”, which was code for “no real girls in this joint.” I did manage to live and dance another day.

    Anywhoodle, compared to marriage equality, climate change and other vital issues it seems like who the bouncer lets in is a bit of a tempest in a teapot.

  7. John in CA says

    Eric,

    You don’t have a fundamental right to operate a business though. Your “all white, all male, all straight” associations are protected so long as they’re explicitly private. Once you start selling drinks and food, however, then you’re subject to federal and state commerce law.

    In many states, these processes are tied to “material compliance” with relevant anti-discrimination policies. They can’t shut down your club for discriminating against black people and what not. But they can take away your liquor license. This would basically ruin you and accomplish the same goal.

    The problem is most anti-discrimination laws are not vigorously enforced. Politicians like to enact them because they’re an easy way to deal with difficult issues that they’d rather not talk about. Business owners know this. And they routinely show their contempt for such laws by ignoring them.

  8. Eric says

    That is a very good point, John.

    I was thinking more along the lines of how courts allow the Boy Scouts to discriminate, but I agree with your point.

    It really depends on how the courts interpret the type of association that a bar conducts.

  9. Lazybrooktom says

    As someone who lives in Houston, I think that a bar using a PUBLIC license (of which a Texas Alchohol License is) should NOT be able to discriminate. The largely Gay neighbors of this bar have to deal with the traffic, noise, and parking hassles from this bar. If they aren’t open to the neighbors, then they should have their license revoked.

    They were discriminating based upon gender, which IS against Texas law.

    The are NOT a private club. If someone wants to be a private club, fine, but EVERYONE has to have a membership and they can’t buy one at the door.

    Doormen can have a dresscode as a bar to entry. But nothing else. A public bar does NOT have a right to a ‘selective entry policy’.

  10. CJ says

    I don’t understand why the gay community is so huge in Texas. A state that recently prosecuted gay men for sodomy and continues to treat the LGBT community as well below second class citizens, I have heard countless stories such as the one above in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. I can understand that it’s important to make our community known and more vocal for change, but that would only make sense if the people currently living there were more active in their community. Otherwise, I am all set with Texas. The odds are against us already, and I’d rather spend my time improving other states where I won’t be jailed after being beaten for holding my boyfriends hands in public.

  11. Xtabentun says

    David, you’re incorrect on technical grounds. There are laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in Texas. Austin and Dallas have them, for example. San Antonio might… In any case, Houston does not and there is no law at the state level… it’s left up to local governments.

    CJ, there are so many gays in Texas because Texas is a big state and it’s cheap to live here. I know it seems like the odds are against us, but I think it’s our responsibility, collectively as a community, to focus our efforts on the places where our fellow gays are *most* vulnerable. It’s easy to march in SF, where things are by most metrics pretty good for gays, it’s quite another thing to do the same in Texas. The community shouldn’t neglect the gay boys and girls being tormented in rural Texas, or Arkansas, in favor of making the lives of bourgeois gays in California a little more bourgeois.

    Smash Prejudice! Smash Homophobia!

  12. Xtabentun says

    …but that doesn’t mean Texan gays are not bourgeois themselves! There is a lot of bigotry in Texas, but things have changed quite a bit even in the past few years. It’s really hard to believe how much gays and straights are adapting to each other, in the urban areas of the state gays have carved out a fairly comfortable place.

    That said, the Texan government is very far to the right. It’s not representative of the state as a whole. Really, the Texan government is a caste unto itself, that’s rigged the system in its favor, etc. etc. That doesn’t mean that there are no popular conservative politicians, but that power is held by a very corrupt and right-wing class. So while Texans are a conservative and religious people, we’re also urban and cosmopolitan, and that in our cities, gays have an easier time of it than they do in perhaps most of the South except South Florida (Dallas, Houston are probably on par with Atlanta, while Austin is a little Berkeley or SF).

    Texas is in a transition period right now. It’s going blue, politically. Power is shifting to our mega-sprawl cities. Things are much less stifling than they were a decade ago. Texas is also very corrupt and badly managed. It’s also a wonderful state with excellent people in many ways and my home. I’m also gay. So while things are not as dire as I may have made it seem, and others do, in comparison we’re doing OK. We have to stick around and fight, however, SMASH prejudice and SMASH homophobia!

  13. CJ says

    XTBAENTUN, thanks for your comments, it is so nice to read a response that is mature, insightful and respectful. I was half expecting nasty responses, but your comments made me rethink my statement. Fight the good fight, the only way :).

  14. Wheezy says

    Wow, that bar must be doing really well if they can afford to turn down gay business. Most of the bars and restaurants in my area are desperate for business and are cutting down on staff hours like crazy. Plenty are a month or two away from folding. I guess Houston’s economy must be doing really well if local businesses can afford to discriminate against folks. Where I am, any event planners who come calling would get the red carpet treatment if they could fill a club or bar to capacity. Things are so shitty, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d change their staff uniform to speedos and bowties and a smile, if they thought it would drag in the gay business.

  15. jason says

    Many straight bar owners are scared of the sight of two men kissing in their bars. They are truly homophobic, especially in relation to the male-male erotic interaction, even something as a mild as a kiss. I know of straight bar owners who tell their door staff to refuse entry to any man who “looks gay”. Of course, if you’re a “hot bi chick” with very little clothing on you, you’re usually welcome with open arms.

    The whole bar/nightclub scene has taken a terrible turn with the development of this bisexual double standard as well as the polarization of male sexuality in America. We’re living in a society which has become increasingly homphobic towards the male-male interaction at the cultural level.

  16. jason says

    The gay community isn’t immune from criticism on this issue. When you create gay bars for reasons other than wanting to protect the gay community, you’re essentially creating a sexual enclave which is designed to pander to the gay sexual orientation. In essence, such enclaves are discriminatory to those who don’t abide by that orientation.

    We mustn’t forget, however, that it is primarily homophobia towards the male-male interaction which drives the vast majority of the nightclub ethos out there in the mainstream. Many mainstream nightclubs (often referred to as straight nightclubs) cultivate an atmosphere of rampant male heterosexuality and, yes, homophobia. If you don’t fit into that straight male viewpoint, you’re considered a “threat”.

  17. jason says

    What we’re seeing in America right now is a combination of the gender double standard and the bisexual double standard. These double standards are designed to prop up male heterosexual fantasy. If you’re a half-naked female with long flowing hair, you’re allowed into bars whether you are gay or straight. If you’re a gay man, you’re not allowed in no matter how you look.

    If you want to know who developed these double standards, all fingers point to liberals and Democrats.

  18. txstevo says

    The fact is if it were a large group of single straight men they would have been stopped at the door too. Bars/clubs want a good ratio of male to female guests.

  19. anon says

    If you can coordinate with the lesbians you can pair-up boy-girl to fool everyone.

    I’d simply recommend that you videotape discrimination in action and then post it on YouTube for all to see. Helps to seal the deal.

  20. Magellan says

    I think that their claim that they were doing it to maintain gender balances hinges on whether they allowed in lesbians who came in groups and were clearly identifiable; if they didn’t let in men at all if they weren’t with women, that might not actually be because they’re gay.

    Just a question: is it a common practice for bouncers to separate parties if the gender balance is off? i.e. On a normal night, would they have told a group of men to wait outside but let the women that they arrived with go in? If not, to me, that explains it.

  21. Derrick from Philly says

    Lord. I’m sure many black gay visitors to Towleroad are chuckling while reading the comments describing not being allowed entrance to these clubs while straight people just walked on in.

    Lord….Lord.

  22. deej says

    I haven’t been to Houston since the early nineties but at that time I was floored by the fact that a gay bar was right next door to a straight club. I remember thinking how progressive Texas (or at least Houston)was. And the bars in question were predominately black.

    What has happened in the last couple of decades for the apparent regressive mentality?

  23. Ed says

    Texas…………well they are weird in Texas anyway!, I don’t care too much for that part of the country….is Bush Country….right wing…people…..no thanks !

  24. SteveDenver says

    We have guerilla bar parties in Denver and they’re always a huge success. The bars make bank and everybody has a good time. Most straight girls loosen up when gay guys are around, then straight guys get to take them home.

    This bar owner is an idiot!

    As for only admitting straights, did guys have to lick some snatch on their way in?

  25. TANK says

    If they have the right to do this, then, through peaceful means, we have the right to drive them outa business. For those who say “we’ve got gay bars!,” get a life. In a straight world, the existence of gay bars promotes us to first class citizenship, huh?

  26. nic says

    the reason to be outraged is pure and simple. a few of us, and many of our parents, remember the sting of signs in public places reading, “no mexicans/niggers, or dogs allowed.”

    on a lighter but relevant note, in the early 80s i was singled out of a frigid waiting line to get into a “trendy” bar and told that i was not welcome. the hulked-out, meat-headed, presumably straight bouncer must have felt good about himself.

    as i walked away, i thought: i probably earn 3 times more than he, i probably have 3 times the education and IQ. yet, he can give ME the bum’s rush!? where’s the fairness? granted, i was decked out in a nu-wave/International Male amalgam that was pushing it for San Antonio, which made me sure that my fashion sense was 100 times better than his. but it was supposed to be a trendy bar, and i fully expected them to live up to their word. and i still do.

    this brings me back to the “Union Bar” controversy. didn’t they say that the queers would be welcomed? shouldn’t we be well passed that? the idea that the management of a podunk bar in houston in 2009, while a black US prez, a black AG, the 2nd female Secy of St, and who knows how many gays and lesbians are in positions of power, would pull this kind of shit is appallingly retrograde.

    i quit putting up with being left out in the cold way back then. i am proud of the queers who waited in the rain to make a point. racism, ethnophobia, xenophobia, bigotry, dismissiveness of another human being w/o cause — it is all of a piece.

    i visited the Union Bar’s website, and on their “book a party” space, i e-mailed them that i would encourage all friends in the houston area to boycott the establishment. further, i advised them that i would be writing the Houston Chronicle and all other media outlets asking for a boycott by all minorities and open-minded whites. i hope that all of you will do the same.

  27. PatrickPatrick says

    “It would be very easy then for the straight majority to invade gay bars on a permanent basis and force them into very out-of-the-way areas in order to remain predominantly gay.”

    Easier said than done…and not even likely to ever happen. When has such a thing ever happened anyway?

    Homohating straight people have better things to do than crash gay bars out of spite. Nor would they want to even be INSIDE such an establishment.

    People who don’t like us would rather spend their time taking away our rights in the privacy and protection of a voting booth…not surrounded by us in a bar.

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