Ahead of Mardi Gras, New Orleans Gay Bars Claim They’re Being Unfairly Targeted by the Law
Last week saw at least two popular New Orleans gay bars, including The Phoenix and Rawhide, cited by the state-run Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC). While there aren’t many details on the citations, including what these bars were cited for specifically, at least one of the two gay bars‘ owners believes they’ve been unfairly targeted.
This story has been updated with more info since its publication.
“On Thursday afternoon, ATC cited us that we were in violation of some state laws. The citations were not unlike what we have seen them recently give other gay bars. We plan on attending our hearing and stating our case,” says Clint Taylor, owner of The Phoenix, in a post on the bar’s Facebook page.
In his statement, Taylor also made clear that the incident was not a “raid,” and that no patrons of the bar were arrested. He stresses that unlike riots and raids of years prior, and unlike the incident at Upstairs Lounge and the attack on Pulse nightclub — where our queer brethren were assaulted, humiliated and in some cases lost their lives — this isn’t what happened the night of his bar’s ATC citation.
“But the fight is the same,” Taylor says. “An attack on one of us is an attack on all us. We hope you stand with us.”
Rawhide Lounge was targeted by the ATC for similar violations in nature to The Phoenix to my understanding. We were cited in November and given numerous fines, citations and imposed regulations on how to operate our business. We did not accept their terms, which came at a very high cost in legal fees. We held a very firm ground and stance in order to protect our customers and the LGBTQ+ community.
We feel individuals’ right to privacy was [infringed] and we will do everything in our power to protect our customers and community. We took a very strong stance on what is right and declined several counter offers by the ATC in order to protect our community.
We have suffered a dramatic loss in business, directly affecting our bartenders’ livelihood as well as a dramatic loss to the city and state in tax revenue. It is extremely important at this time for our community to come together as a whole and support each other. We are and always will be stronger together as a unit.
Musa is alleging the citations issued to his gay bar are more severe than those given to the city’s straight strip clubs charged with prostitution. He claims that when he confronted the ATC commissioner about that fact, asking if she felt consensual acts between two men in a restroom are worse than prostitution, the commissioner backtracked. Musa also claims the ATC has proposed multiple settlement offers with the bar.
Yesterday, on Feb. 27, the New Orleans Human Relations Commission also issued a statement, which was in support of the New Orleans gay bars targeted by the ATC:
We are aware of the recent enforcement actions taken against The Phoenix, The Rawhide, and others. We stand with our LGBTQ+ residents and our LGBTQ+ owned businesses and we always will. These enforcement entities are *not* under the City’s control, but we are concerned whenever our residents feel targeted. We are actively engaging all involved and will continue to do so.
Big Easy Magazine previously reported that only New Orleans gay bars have been targeted in this recent slew of citations, but the publication has since uncovered that in the last six months, while several New Orleans gay bars were issued citations, at least three straight strip clubs had their licenses suspended as well.
The magazine also has drawn comparisons to “Operation Trick or Treat” from 2015, when state-led vice units had alcohol and tobacco permits suspended in four Bourbon Street bars due to what vice claimed was prostitution, drugs and “lewd acts.”
As of now, ahead of the city’s famed Mardi Gras celebrations, both The Phoenix and Rawhide are still open to the public and are proceeding with their planned weekend events.