The Red Room, a gay bar in Austin, Texas, which used to cater primarily to a gay crowd is now at the center of a debate over whether customers were turned away because of their sexual orientation.
The new owners reportedly advised the staff that the bar will no longer be considered a gay bar, according to Josh Moon (pictured), who until recently tended bar there. Gay patrons were then asked to leave on Friday night, the first night of operation under new ownership.
The owners released a statement through an attorney to Houston news station KVUE saying “a private party rented the bar for the night and it was the private party that kicked people out, which is within their legal right.”
Moon claimed that a Facebook invitation for the bar on July 19 referred to the evening as a “grand opening,” not a private event.
“I think they were going to make it a continued thing and bring these people back every weekend, because that’s how they made it sound to us,” Moon said.
An Austin resident posted a comment about the incident on the bar’s page on Gay Cities, Queerty’s sister website, saying “they actually refused entry to gay and lesbian club goers, drag queens and more saying they weren’t following ‘dress code’ just to let in other people who were in short shorts flip flops and hats who appeared to be more straight in.”
Moon insisted he heard security tell arriving patrons “This is not a gay bar anymore, you’re not welcome. You can’t come in.’” Moon left the bar and was fired the following day.
“I can’t morally respect myself and be okay with this and stay here and work for you when you’re turning all of my people away,” he said. “You opened up a bar on 4th Street in the gay strip. You can’t do this to people.”
Watch KVUE’s interview with Moon below.