How Will Ft. Worth Solve Its ‘We Beat the Crap Out of Gays’ PR Problem?


Thanks to June’s Stonewall-style raid on the Rainbow Lounge in Ft. Worth, Americans all over the country can finally find the city on a map. That’s good news for fifth grade geography classes, but bad news for businesses there dependent on visitors, because Ft. Worth now has a serious PR problem.

Time will heal all wounds, sure, but in the foreseeable future, LGBTs will be associating Ft. Worth with intolerance and police-sponsored violence. This is, we hear, not a good public image to maintain. Especially given preliminary findings of the raid: “The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission allows that its agents committed more than a half-dozen potentially fireable offenses during the June raid on a Cowtown gay bar – and the agency hasn’t even addressed the part about how one patron got his noggin busted.”

So what to do when an entire city earns a bad rap thanks to a half dozen over eager (and, uh, BIGOTED) Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents and FWPD officers who sent one gay fella to the hospital with a bleeding brain and terrorized countless others?

Well, you can hope:

City Council member Kathleen Hicks, whose District 8 includes the Rainbow Lounge, said she hopes the incident doesn’t change Fort Worth’s reputation for the worse, but added only time will tell.

“I think obviously anyway you look at it, it was an unfortunate event but the fact that we’re all trying to work in concert to learn from it and make something positive from it shows [the city’s commitment],” she said. “We’re not rushing to judgment and that can only be seen as a positive.

“My hope is that people will feel even more comfortable knowing that Fort Worth is moving forward in an inclusive manner,” she added. “We want each of our 720,000 residents to feel comfortable and visitors to feel comfortable as well.”

You can wait:

From a public relations standpoint, one local executive said it’s best for city officials to let the investigations wrap up, and then address the situation.

“At this stage, shut up,” said Allen Wallach, CEO of Concussion High Impact Communications. “Don’t add fuel to the fire with town hall meetings, a ‘beer summit’ or other grandstanding tactics that can only exacerbate the situation. Pandering will only do harm at this point. Time will allow emotions to cool so that productive, logical steps can continue.”

Though he recommends the silent treatment for the moment, it’s important the city follows through with the investigations and keeps interested parties knowledgeable of what’s going on. In any public relations nightmare, remember to educate, he said.

Or you can do nothing:

Former journalist and frequent candidate for public office Tracey Smith doesn’t think the incident has changed how Tarrant County residents view their community, likely because the TABC officers’ actions are seen as a one-time or rare occurrence.

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt us any as far as business reputation, as a place to do business,” Smith said. “There are always people who mistreat other people and I don’t think what happened is a reflection of the Fort Worth Police Department, maybe the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission because they have some other instances where they went in places and things got out of hand.”

Us? We’re of the mindset that “the best time to fly is right after an aviation disaster.” That is: The best time to be gay and hit the town is right after an anti-gay assault from officials. The cops and TABC agents are going to be treading very lightly for the next weeks and months, so if you’re the type who likes to get absolutely shitfaced in drag, stumble home wearing a rainbow flag as a shawl, or engage in any type of behavior that’s a result of “overserving” (the original rationale for the raid), now is the time!