Houston’s First Guerilla Gay Bar Goes Badly, But Is It Bar-Owner’s Fault?

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If you haven’t heard of the guerrilla gay bar phenomenon, here’s what it is: Take a bunch of gay people, get them out of their usual drinking haunts and have them hang out at a typically “straight” bar. The whole idea is to make politics fun, but there was no joy in Houston this weekend after gays and lesbians stood in the rain waiting to get into midtown’s Union Bar. They’re claiming discrimination, the bar’s owner says there was no room at the inn. Before we reach for the ‘Outrage’ button, consider this.

Your editor has been writing about Guerrilla Gay Bar in its various forms for a few years now and recently was in Charlotte, North Carolina covering that city’s version of the event. Here in Los Angeles, Guerrilla Gay Bar is something of an institution and wildly popular, forcing the events organizers to choose venues that can accommodate the large group. In fact, early on in the event’s run, the same thing happened: GGB L.A. chose a small bar, recently opened and popular, as its venue. Hundreds of gays and lesbians stood outside waiting to get in and the doormen didn’t let them in. The event’s organizers quickly let the folks standing in line know of an alternative venue to go to and everyone moved on. Afterward, they were quick to counter any accusations of discrimination and from then on avoided, small popular venues.

Houston’s midtown bar holds 114 people and as the owner showed in video released of the night, the event was packed. Also, the Houston Guerrilla Gay Bar made a reservation for 50 people and the bar let in that many folks before refusing admission.

This didn’t stop the organizers from sending out a press release, saying:

“Patrons started lining up at about 9:40 p.m. and were told to wait in line and not allowed inside, even as straight-appearing people were waved through. As the line grew and patrons waited in the rain, employees at the door told those who were that they were maintaining a “ratio.” Later, the bar employees simply indicated they had the right to refuse anyone.

“I was shocked to be a victim of that kind of discrimination in a city like Houston in 2009,” said Neal Falgoust, a Houston law student. “I have never experienced anything like that before in my life.”

How to be polite about this? Bars try to get girls in first– doesn’t matter if you’re straight or gay, if you’ve ever been at a popular nightspot, the ladies get in first. We don’t want to deny people their personal feelings of being discriminated against, but, with the owner apologizing for the crowds and explaining that oftentimes the bar is packed from party reservations alone, the reality wasn’t that Union Bar was hating on gays, but rather, there was no room at the inn. As one commenter, who was inside the bar, writes on Yelp:

“There were men, women, gay and straight have a grand time. So Union is after all a GOOD place. Yes I say good because other then the “Someone wipe my ass I can’t get in” or “Ohh that damn bitch didn’t let me in cause im gay” ITS ALL LIES!!! The pictures on channel 11 shows it full of people at 10pm and most are “HELLO” MEN!!!”

So which is it? Were the gays in Houston discriminated against or were they just trying to fill a space that couldn’t possibly accommodate them?