EMAIL DISTRIBUTED BY TOM WHITMAN
There was an incident at the end of the night (near 2 am) on Saturday outside of here lounge and Hamburger Haven involving a guest, security and the Sheriff’s Department.
Differing accounts, stories and emails about what happened have been flying around for the past two days.
According to the guest, he was roughed up by security on the way out. According to security, the guest was aggressive and pushed and tried to hit one of them. According to some witnesses, the guest was drunk or otherwise under the influence.
I did not witness the incident because I was inside the club, so I can’t speak to it firsthand. When the Sheriff’s report is released it will clarify what happened with them. But I will say this:
1) There is almost always a way to get a customer, belligerent or otherwise, out of the bar without coercive force. I say “almost” because even in gay bars, when people get drunk or high, they act in sometimes violent and unpredictable ways. Security is there to protect the person who is intoxicated as well as the people around him.
2) There is never a reason for undue force from security. If someone is acting violent or inappropriate or doing something illegal the job of security is to restrain a person and get them outside of the venue, at which point they are either released to the appropriate officials (like the Sheriff) or on their own recognizance for less serious matters.
3) I can speak to the procedures that the security at here lounge are instructed to use – and it is always to safeguard customers and create a safe environment for everyone. They are never there to punish or harass anyone – they have a vested interest in keeping the clients happy and therefore keeping their jobs. Also, they know that they can treat the gay clientele far more gently than they might another demographic. That said, they are they to protect EVERYONE, including the people around a belligerent person as well as a belligerent person.
4) I can’t speak to the Sheriff Department’s behavior, since I did not witness it, but I can speak to their seemingly good relationship with our community. They certainly have experience working with gay nightclubs, and I personally have never experienced a violence problem with them in the past five years of doing gay events in West Hollywood. Like I said, I did not witness what happened, and certainly a good record does not guarantee good behavior, but they do have a pretty good history as far as I have experienced. Though we don’t live in a perfect world, I feel safer being gay in West Hollywood than almost anywhere in the world.
5) There are different accounts of what happened. We have all seen the email from the partner of the guest. (I’m not using his name because it is not my place to reveal it.) But I have received unsolicited emails from people sharing a different story than that story, including the following.
(An unsolicited email from a person not affiliated with here lounge or Tom Whitman Presents.)
Here is my account of the events as I witnessed. While I wish to do the right thing, I would prefer that my identity be protected as much as possible as I do not wish to suffer any backlash personally from this incident.
Here is what I wrote to Jack on his request for information:
I happened to be at Here Lounge this past Saturday, March 11 until it closed and would like to provide you with a version of events as I witnessed them. While it is unfortunate that Mr. Hartsfield-Price got hurt, I honestly believe the allegations posted on mindfoldla.com to be largely embellished to the point of utter fabrication. Here is what I witnessed:
First and foremost, security did not “beat” him. They were trying to keep him under control as he recklessly trampled through the crowd. I even heard a security guard say “calm down.” He got away from them and ran through for the exit whereupon security chased him out. West Hollywood Sheriff’s Deputies saw him running from security and also tried
to stop him. He fell in the street and again on the sidewalk where they ended up detaining him. From what I witnessed, Mr. Hartsfield-Price appeared to be inebriated. His uncooperative behavior with the police only confirms this.
I happen to know several of the security force at Here Lounge. They have taken care of me several times by calling me cabs when I did not feel able to drive. In fact, I make it a point to talk to them and say hello every time I visit. In my estimation, they are not the “beating kind.” Nor does it seem likely that Sheriff’s Deputies would maliciously beat a man, right in front of Hamburger Hamlet with more than 50 people watching from the other side of the street.
I am not positively saying that something wrong and unjust did not occur. The pictures of Mr. Hartsfield-Price certainly attest to certain injuries that were sustained that night. From my vantage point however, those bruises most likely came from his falling down, running through a crowd, falling again in the street and resisting law enforcement officers. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, Here Lounge security as well as police were doing their job by trying to peaceably detain an unruly person.
– name withheld by Tom Whitman because of the first paragraph of this letter-
(this is from one of the promoters working on Saturday, who was near the door, as part of his job.)
Towards the end of the evening after last call, when the security officers were clearing the patrons out of the bar, everything seemed to be going as smoothly as usual. Then I noticed one of the security officers, I believe it was Reggie, but I was not 100% sure as I was behind him, escorting Seth out of the bar. I could see Seth clearly as he was facing me. Very quickly, it seemed to turn somewhat violent as I saw Seth resisting the security officer, pushing him and trying to get away. As they neared the front gate, the security officer pushed Seth up against the fence, with complete justification as he was only doing his job in trying to restrain a belligerent patron. Seth then attempted to strike the officer and get away. At this point the officer took Seth out of the front gates of the club in the throng of people and out onto Roberston Blvd. I did not see anything further, as there were too many people around. I walked up towards SMB and home.
This is a very sticky situation as Seth is a friend, but I feel I must be honest in this situation. In my interactions with Seth during the night, it’s my opinion that he was very intoxicated which probably lead to some poor decisions on his part. In my interactions with Reggie and the rest of the security team in my time as both a patron of Here Bar and most recently a promoter, they are nothing but professional, caring, and on top of their job. In the past two weeks promoting for Here Bar, I have somewhat come to know the officers. I can saw with 100% certainty that the officers would NEVER act without provocation. Additionally, the officer did not strike Seth or do anything more than escort him out until Seth made the first strike, as far as I saw.
Lastly, in my 11 years living in LA, I have always found the West Hollywood Sheriffs and local bouncers to be nothing but friendly, supportive of the community, and professional. There are not many Sheriff’s stations in this city where you can walk right in or call and get the help you need.
Written by Jeremy Gordon on March 13, 2006
Regardless of the details, there is something wrong with what happened on Saturday. There should not even be the appearance of undue force from security. Not only do I want there to be actual safety created by security, there should also be the appearance of safety. An incident where even a few people think that there was undue use of force makes us all feel less safe.
I will continue to work to make sure that not only is security creating a safe place for everyone, but as much as possible, when there is an incident, it should be as clear as possible that security is reacting in an appropriate way to preserve public safety. Not only should a venue be safe, it should also appear safe.
In the past five years, I like to think I have a pretty good track record of creating gay events with appropriate security, where security is there to protect the customers without being Big Brother. I try to create events where we as a community feel both comfortable AND secure. I will continue to try to improve on that. I don’t want anyone, whether they are drunk and belligerent or sober and cooperative, to feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
Obviously some work needs to be done, and I will work to make sure that it happens.
And one last note. We have a duty to watchdog our public servants and our communal spaces, and none of us should forget that. But I hope that in the future, clearer heads will prevail in waiting for more information before everyone jumps on a bandwagon of gossip and rumor before waiting for the facts or both sides of a story. When we do that, we create fear in our community, and distrust between each other and with those we have entrusted to protect us.
I am always available to listen to comments about any of my events, and I promise to do my best to address any concerns. I take the safety and wellbeing of this community that I love very seriously. I am always available at [email protected]