Owners and staff of 11 Philadelphia gay bars andclubs are being required to take a crash course in the city’s anti-discrimination laws. It follows complaints of racism in Gayborhood venues catering to LGBTQ customers, which came to a head in late 2016 after a video showing ICandy bar owner Darryl DePiano using racial slurs appeared on YouTube — although they had been highlighted before.
Other complaints heard by Philadelphia’s Commission on Human Relations centered on incidents such as people of color being denied entry to venues based on vague dress codes, and white gay men being given preferential service from bartenders.
The Commission’s report zeroes in on ICandy, and two more bars: Woody’s and Tavern on Camac, but executive director of the Commission Rue Landau tells Eater that there’s good reason to require more bars than just those three to do this training.
“Other bars were brought up to us as being problematic as well. We determined it was necessary for all of the bars to be trained on anti discrimination laws and implicit bias so all members of the LGBTQ community can feel safe from bias and discrimination wherever they go.”
The training involves staff and owners learning about Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance (in short, the city’s anti-discrimination laws), and also includes implicit bias training, which prompts individuals to recognize their own underlying racist or sexist attitudes. The training will be free for all bar owners and staff.
Racism towards customers wasn’t the only issue brought up in this investigation. Landau explains that in a hearing on the issue late last year that led to the forced training, some bar staff had experiences to share.
“We’ve heard complaints from employees who felt like their management was not providing services in an even handed way and employees who felt they were particularly discriminated against.”
The Commission’s report, released a few days ago, suggests that racism in the Gayborhood isn’t the only problem. The report states that bar owners “create preferable environments for white, cisgender male patrons,“ and highlights sexism faced by LGBTQ women in bars, too, like the following account:
“As a woman, my partner and I, and our friends, have experienced feeling invisible in bars — specifically at Woody’s and ICandy — and have watched on multiple occasions men who came up to the bar after us, get served before us. This happens so often that if I happen to be out with some gay male friends, we will ask them to order our drinks for us.”
At least one bar, Woody’s, seems to be taking the opportunity to open up to customers, effectively putting out an open call for complaints on Facebook.
And for Landau, that’s the exact sort of positive take on the situation she hoped for.
“We think this is a great thing for the bars, for the staff, and certainly a great thing for the patrons.”
The 11 bars doing the training are ICandy, Woody’s, Boxer’s, Stir Lounge, Voyeur, UBar, Tabu, Franky Bradley’s, Knock, Tavern on Camac, and Bike Stop.