A landmark New York City gay bar has come under fire for alleged racism after text messages from both the manager and owner have been widely shared.
The Monster bar, situated not far from the legendary Stonewall Inn on New York’s Christopher Street, has a long history of attracting gay patrons through a mix of live music, drag shows and scantily-clad dancers. Now a series of text messages sent by bar manager Italo Lopez to bar DJ Mitch Ferrino reveal Lopez criticizing event advertising for “Manster,” a drag theme night hosted by Honey Davenport. In the messages, Lopez orders Ferrino to make changes to a flyer as he does not want to promote a “black night.” He adds that doing so would be “bad for business.”
Ferrino showed the messages to Davenport, who reached out to bar owner Charles Rice with her concerns that his comments had a racist overtone. When Rice did not reply, Davenport took action: she halted her own performance at the bar to notify patrons of the backstage drama. She also announced her departure and exited the stage close to tears, dropping her microphone to the floor.
The bar patrons reacted to Davenport’s speech with gasps and cheers. Word spread quickly through the drag world, leading several other high-profile performers to cancel events at the bar. Even the club DJ, Mitch Ferrino, has pulled events.
Ferrino’s action prompted a response from owner Rice. In it, Rice placed no blame on Lopez, but seemed to hold Ferrino and Davenport responsible for the bad publicity. Rice, Lopez, and other staff from Monster have yet to comment publicly on the issue.
Davenport, for her part, released a subsequent statement to Out, elaborating on her reasons for leaving the venue.
“First, thank you to everyone who has reached out and spoken up in support. Taking this step away from a place that I had considered my home was terrifying, and it’s a huge comfort to know that my nightlife family has my back. I’m saddened by the stance that Italo (and in their refusal to respond, The Monster Bar) has taken but unfortunately, I’m not surprised by it. This happens everywhere. I had to speak up because I knew that not doing so would mean I was complicit in perpetuating these attitudes towards other artists. Other performers need to know that they don’t have to be mistreated. Our art has no home in a place where we are not respected. Not speaking up would be like saying ‘You just have to take this.’
We have always been a community that fights hate. We must embrace and fight for our queer brothers and sisters of all races. Black people and people of color have had a long history of fighting for our community and we need our community to fight for us now.
Our fight is far from over. We have to keep it going. The Monster is going to wait this out and hope it blows over. For real change to happen, we need to keep fighting.”
Here’s hoping Mr. Rice does the right thing and makes restitution for this ugly situation.