The word Bigots and a posting warning of discrimination were placed outside the bar's bulletin.
The Red Room recently changed owners this month and are now facing accusations of turning away gay customers, an incident that occurred during their grand opening. Gay patrons say on that night, they were kicked out of the bar because of their perceived sexual orientation.
Originally a bar that used to cater to an LGBT clientele, the Red Room is located in downtown Austin at the corner of 4th Street — Austin's “gayborhood.”
The LGBT Community in Austin is rallying to protest the bar. A “kiss-in” was held outside the Red Room on 4th Street this past weekend.
More details have emerged surrounding the story, including management telling their staff the bar was now to be called a straight bar “because calling it a gay bar makes people uncomfortable.”
Read more of the details after the jump.According to a former bartender, Josh Moon, Red Room employees were not made aware that the bar was no longer catering to the LGBT community until the opening night. With the change of management also came a new “dress code,” which was to be enforced at the entrance. Management admitted to no longer being a gay bar after staff began to question the new door policy.
The dress code was said to have been enforced unfairly that night, seemingly used to target gay clients from entering the bar.
The gay customers who were less casually dressed were told that there was a $10 cover charge. But patrons perceived as being straight were apparently being treated differently — given no hassle for their choice of attire and not charged any cover.
The former bartender claims to have seen this when many of his usual clientele were not being allowed inside. “When I walked by the door,” Moon says, “I saw that it was only drag queens and gay people that were being turned away for the dress code.”
He claims to have overheard the door guy tell people, “This is not a gay bar anymore, you're not welcome. You can't come in.”
Distressed by the incidents, Moon was allowed to go home after speaking with Red Room management about what he saw. He was fired via text the next day.
Monaco Houston was one of the gay patrons turned away:
“I went there on Friday night,” Houston says, “As I approached the door, I was rudely asked for my ID. I was then told that I could not come in because I was gay. [They said] 'this is no longer a gay bar and you people are not allowed in here.' I was truly hurt and disturbed by their action.”
United Court of Austin, an HIV/AIDS nonprofit, confirmed Red Room was quick to cut connections. Red Room cancelled one of the organization's planned drag fundraisers at the last moment, stating the club was no longer a gay bar.
Chad Lyons, that evening's promoter, says he understood the Red Room owners were looking to rebrand the club, but insists that there was no intention to exclude the regular LGBT clientele. Lyons says the dress code was advertised in advance and, although their event flyer also advertised a no cover charge, the charge was decided after all to help defer costs.
Lyons says he never instructed anyone to turn away customers based on their perceived sexual orientation, and was not aware of the complaints until Monday night.
Lyons also states members of the LGBT community did attend both events held that weekend. He says the only drag queen that was turned away was wearing a bikini top and booty shorts, “but we did let drag queens in Saturday and Friday who were appropriately dressed.”
The only statement from the Red Room owners have so far been through lawyers. The lawyers asserted that the club was booked to a private party who were within their rights to turn anyone away. The owners state they regret what happened that night, and that will be more careful in managing private events. They said the bar will remain an open and inviting bar for everyone.
The City of Austin prohibits discrimination in public accommodation based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Those who experience discrimination at a bar open to the public are encouraged to file a formal complaint with Austin's EEO office or the city's Human Rights Commission.