What to do if your karaoke bar, filled with screamers who think they’re Grammy-winning singers when they belt out lyrics to 90s college tracks, is mistaken for a gay nightspot? Put this sign up, apparently. That’s what Greg Quast did when his bar, The Elbo Room in Peoria, Illinois, got overrun with folks like us. Except there was no mistaking the bar’s clientele. Quast and his staff should’ve been used to it: Originally known as the Quench Room, the venue has always been known as a gay bar, even when ownership changed. “Although gay patrons continued to frequent the spot, tensions between them and the bar owner have boiled over recently concerning public displays of affection, according to the gay customers,” reports the Chicago Tribune. And after this sign went up? Protest.
In a flurry of forwarded Facebook, MySpace and text messages, a coalition quickly mobilized and dozens of gay rights supporters lined up last weekend outside The Elbo Room to express their outrage. The sign, they said, might as well have read, “Gays are not welcome here.”
“The sign was basically a sign of intolerance, and we’re not going to stand for it anymore,” said Stephanie Worlow, 27, one of the organizers of the protest that drew nearly 40 people. “It’s time that we as a community stand up for ourselves. We’re not going to stand for intolerance anymore.”
The group held three protests last weekend, one of which drew the attention of paintballers, who fired on the crowd. Police had no suspects in that attack.
[...]The bar owner, Greg Quast, could not be reached for comment. But he issued a statement apologizing for the sign, saying he’s taken action to ensure it does not happen again. Van Auken warned that it better not; the city has already notified him the sign violated state law.