The manager of a popular gay bar in Washington, D.C. says he’s not racist despite some rather damning evidence to the contrary.
David Perruzza is the manager of JR’s in Dupont Circle. A recently leaked between him and Aram Vartian, a graphic designer hired to make promo material for the bar, shows the manager requesting a “hot white guy” instead of a black man in a 2012 advertisement.
Vartian told Mic decided to leak the email after he and Perruzza got into an argument over the recent protests in Washington, D.C. surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency.
“He irked me. He pissed me off. We got into an argument, and it got heated,” Vartian said. “It’s not a noble way to put it out there, but I’m glad the information is out there.”
To make a long story short, Vartian was commissioned to create an ad for the bar’s Olympics-themed happy hour back in 2012. When he sent in the proof, which featured a shirtless black model, he received the following response from Perruzza:
I don’t know how to be [politically correct] about it but do you have a hot white guy? That’s more our clientelle [sic].
After the email began circulating late last week, Perruzza immediately went on the offensive in an Instagram post:
The actual ad we ran. All pictures that were used were awful. We went with none at all. As for all the talk this is getting. JRS 5 years ago was a predominantly white crowd so yes, you advertise to who comes to your bar. That's business. Now things are very different. We have one of the most diverse staffs and have had the same staff for years, we also are the only bar to do an event like Arabian nights not to mention the amount of money we give back to the community which supports numerous causes. Don't believe what a disgruntled person will put on there page.
Speaking to Mic, Perruzza said race had nothing to do with him requesting “a hot white guy” instead of a black guy in the bar’s promo material. He also said he’s not sorry.
“I won’t apologize for it,” he insisted, “because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that for what was going on at the time. Everything was Abercrombie models and pretty boys.”
Perruzza went on to say that the D.C. bar scene was “more segregated” back then and that there were plenty of other bars that catered to black clientele. He estimated that his bar only had about 10% black patrons. So why advertise to them?
To illustrate his point, Perruzza insisted that JR’s welcomes people of every color, using the bar’s monthly Arabian Nights party, which Perruzza says features “Muslim music,” as an example of its inclusivity:
But Vartian isn’t buying the excuse.
“Arabian Nights is racist to begin with,” he tells Vic. “That inability to think five feet beyond yourself just breeds a culture of racism. In our bars, the places you run to for safety, you can’t create that culture. You have to face what you’re doing.”