When a new gay bar in NYC opens, it’s a time to rejoice and celebrate, but the opening of REBAR has been somewhat the opposite. In the first couple of weeks, the new bar seems to be finding itself at the center of controversy.
Reportedly, a “posse” of African-American men was refused at the door and told they could not enter. The reason provided, the bar is filled to capacity. Allegedly, a couple of the guys from the group, friends of the bar staff were granted access only to find out the bar wasn’t full at all. From what I’ve heard and read, the guys left, but when they left the bar, they started telling everyone online outside that the bar was not filled to capacity but filled to black capacity.
Like most new gay bars they like to give patrons the illusion the bar is full by having a line outside. That seems to be what happened in this case. But creating fake lines outside of a NEW bar is so 1990’s and a poor tactic to build buzz because it’s going to backfire. Sadly, REBAR is doing the same damn thing, G-Lounge did when they first opened and looked what happened, they closed. Unlike Barracuda and Gym bar which if I recall never did those types of tactics to pull in a crowd. Something to think about REBAR!
First, let me say, I am an African-American gay male. When I went to the bar last week, I did not feel unwelcomed, but again, I was not with a group of black men. I was with my female cousin, less threatening perhaps than a group.
Let’s call a thing a thing; racism does exist, and we’ve written on Kinkster MAG about how it exists even in the gay community. You might not like to read about it or hear about it, but it’s true. A friend of mine commented on social media, under the article reporting the story, that he was not going to jump to any conclusions and that a source of his said the whole thing was blown out of proportion. I can agree and disagree with his statement. I wasn’t there and didn’t experience the situation first hand, but it’s also not impossible for this to be true.
Let’s call another thing a thing, a large group of African-American men can be perceived as threatening in this country, and it should not come to a surprise or be impossible that this could have been the reasoning behind the bar’s decision to allegedly turn these patrons away.
During the late evening I spent at REBAR, there were NOT a lot of black men, but we were visible, and I felt welcomed. My cousin and I even spoke to one of the owners who did not act differently towards us because we are black. The owner even gave my female cousin kisses on the cheek. Again, perhaps my female companion was less threatening than a group of African-American men.
I can share that I have experienced that type of racism in predominantly white gay bars, so it does exist. I won’t deny or negate that it isn’t possible what the guys expressed or felt is potentially real. Plus, when I’ve experienced some form of racism and shared it with individuals, I’ve been told it did not happen when I know as a black person it did happen. I can agree with my friend, we weren’t there so we can’t jump to conclusions, but I do not deny it didn’t happen.
I also acknowledge that I’ve experienced more racism in a gay bar than a gay nightclub. Oddly, I believe there is a difference between the two. With a gay bar, the faces and the type of guys who go to that particular bar determine the bar’s clientele and its brand. On the other hand, a nightclub builds its crowd with a greater focus on the DJ’s, the music, and having a packed dancefloor. The success of many nightclubs in the community is because they pull in all types of individuals.
For a new bar like REBAR, perhaps there is a fear of being labeled a black bar or one that attracts black guys. Although that should not matter, in our society it does matter. I am a black business owner myself and struggle with being identified as a black company because it’s perceived as a negative to a large population of gay white men.
Let me be clear; all gay white men are not racist or the establishments that cater to a white crowd, that’s not what I am saying. However, when it comes to business; having a bar filled with black guys especially in your first few weeks might be a turn off to the crowd your trying to attract. Sadly, it’s marketing and branding at its best and worst.
Again, I was not there, so I don’t know the whole story, but I do know that we as a community cannot be afraid to face the fact that racism does exist and could have been at play in this situation. We also as a community have to watch what we say and how we treat one another. REBAR may not have intentionally set out to discriminate against these men. But, it is possible it was done to protect the image they want for their bar, but it doesn’t make it right. REBAR public statement came with some commenting that it was a “non-apology.” (Click Here)
To my gay media associates, when these situations arise stop using titles to your articles that create a divide. Instead, create highlights with a bright point of view. If you continue to create titles to inject division we are never going to have a decent and honest conversation about racism in the community. We have to work together and not against one another.
Lastly, REBAR whether this was intentional or not, this is the opportunity to open the lines of communication and address an issue of how African-American gay men experience predominantly white gay bars. If there are discriminating practices in effect, I certainly will not spend my money at your establishment, and several of my white friends have agreed not to as well. I am not blind from thinking companies don’t have hidden discriminatory practices. As an African-American man, I will not give up on REBAR just yet, but I have eyes and ears open.