Bar fight

Manager of popular D.C. gay bar insists he’s not racist despite damning evidence to the contrary

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.

Related: 10 things you should never say to a black guy on Grindr

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:

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.”

Related: Homophobic Bar Owner Goes Off On Gay Couple, Internet Goes Off On Homophobic Bar Owner

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:

Tonight at JRs!

Posted by JR's Bar on Tuesday, May 31, 2016

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.”

Related: Bar Removes Homophobic Sign After Customers Destroy It On Facebook

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45 Comments

  • mhoffman953

    This sounds like a terrible graphic designer. If the client wants a certain type of person in an ad, you follow the clients wishes, you don’t do politically correct grandstanding and argue with the client who is paying you for your services.

    • captainburrito

      He didn’t. He wasn’t that principled. He just decided to leak it now after an argument.

  • Heywood Jablowme

    How about White Bread Wednesdays? Happy hour will feature free mini-weiners and mayonnaise.

  • Heywood Jablowme

    Btw, I love how Arabian Nights has “$3 draft beer all night.” Give ’em a taste of home, lol. (Hic.)

  • Caine

    Aram Vartian sounds like the jerk here.

  • Aromaeus

    I can’t believe he thought ‘Arabian Night’ was a suitable defense. So the original ad featured an attractive man who happened to be black but this owner thought so little of his clientele that he thought it would be off-putting to them so he requested a white model. That or in his mind the only enticing model for his ad is a white one.

    • Brian

      “I’m not racist. I have black friends!”
      — scratch that —
      “I’m not racist. Middle Eastern men pay me for goods and services!”

  • Xzamilloh

    No one is coming out looking good in this story. The only thing I will say is that even if I don’t agree with the guy, I admire him and anyone who simply hold true to what they believe and does not kowtow to pressure to apologize. This is how I feel for two key reasons:

    1. If you are not sorry, don’t apologize because doing so shows you lack integrity and have had no actual contrition (or “Come to Jesus”) moment.

    2. If you are demanding an apology and have no intentions of accepting said apology, you’re just trying to pull a power move and show you are in control.

    Having lived some, I can see how the kneejerk reaction is to assume this was [email protected], and I am leaning on the side of those saying it is, but I can also see the business aspect of it. It’s basic supply and demand… if the demand is there for white twinks, bring on the white twinks. If the market was for some sexy nubile flesh, bring on the Tyreses and Michael B. Jordans. Because I can tell you now, I’m going to see the Tyreses and the Michael B. Jordans!!

    • Black Pegasus

      Xzamilloh – concise, balanced points. Thank you.

    • kiriakis1

      You do know that the term “nubile flesh” has nothing whatever to do with “the Tyreses and the Michael B. Jordans, don’t you?

      It doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means, and your whole post doesn’t read as having been written by someone who has “lived some”, not when you don’t seemed to have “learned some”.

    • Xzamilloh

      @Black Pegasus Thanks. I’m trying to be fair in my old age of 32.

      @kiriakis1 I meant “nubian”… it must have autocorrected to “nubile.” That’s unfortunate. And now, that we’ve corrected that misunderstanding you can move on with your life.

    • spacecadet

      You admire “anyone who simply hold true to what they believe and does not kowtow to pressure to apologize”? Really, no matter how vile that belief? So you admire Hitler then?

  • Aromaeus

    Also the fact that he said “i don’t know how to be pc about it” shows he knew what he was requesting was problematic. It’s literally another version of “I’m not racist but..”

    • Black Pegasus

      Aromaeus – spot on!

  • Andre4

    I can only speak for myself, but as a black resident of D.C. , this has been my experience as well as my multi-cultural friends for 2 decades of going out to clubs. J.R.’s stands out for their consistently poor service to minorities and that is why minority patrons have dropped off significantly. I for one , spend my money where my friends and I are respected equally and given the same level of professional service we expect and deserve. If you want to advertise your business , your actions speak louder than any black or white hot model in a print ad.

    • AsAMother

      Yup. I’m a DC resident as well. JR’s has a huge reputation for their extremely rude staff, particularly if you are a minority, or a woman. They have a small pool of very loyal regulars, and they don’t feel the need to cater to anyone else. A friend pointed something out yesterday though. If another bar decided to hold a competing showtunes night, and if they moved the kickball field, they would lose A LOT of business very quickly. Anyone who isn’t a loyal regular is only there because it’s convenient and all of their friends are there anyway.

      JR’s does not take criticism lightly, as you can see here in this article, Perruzza is extremely combative and short tempered. He believes that he is always right, and makes any and all disagreements personal, and he holds no qualms about burning bridges. This is not the first time he’s found himself in hot water, and his reaction is always the same.

  • jhon_siders

    We are way too PC now days ! But I can tell you from seeing it happen 2 bars in Louisville 1 was targeted by the fairness committee accused the owner of being racist because he told a lesbian to get her fat butt off a pool table and yes she was a big heifer id said the same thing he closed up then reopened starting having black gay pride nights .Well it was no time at all it filled with thugs and drugs there were assaults I quit going there unless I had my pistol on my ankle holster it got that bad ! Only went because we all used to meet there . I know another bar that brought in the rap and hip hop into his place the same thing happened it closed up then the crowd went to the hill and it closed too due to problems too There is a trend there you cannot argue with . There is less trouble with a all white crowd .

    • mawbinatl

      Are you kidding me right now? I lived in Atlanta for 12 years and there’s a club called Bulldog’s that caters primarily to the African American gay community but it open to all.

      In the 12 years that I lived there, there was not one incident of violence. Not one! Inside or outside of the bar. My favorite bartender was in the back because he made good drinks and he was Caucasian. So don’t feed me that BS that there is less trouble with an all white crowd.

      The Eagle, Blake’s, Backstreet (when it was open), Burkhardt’s and the Heretic all cater to mixed crowds (all in Atlanta) and there were never ever any problems.

      And that was 5 friggin years ago that this advertisement was requested. The segregation argument of the bar owner is ludicrous on its face value. 2012 and not 1982, which would have been a little more believable.

      I do agree that the Graphic Designer should have just either complied with the request or remove himself from the project if he had an issue. It’s never a good thing to argue with a client, but this bar owner is clearly a racist – then and now. “Pretty boys” don’t automatically mean white.

    • scotshot

      @mawbinatl

      “My favorite bartender ….was Caucasian.” …less trouble with a all white crowd.”

      You sound like a Trumpette.

      smh.

  • BriBri

    I just picked my nose and ate it.

  • Alan down in Florida

    “JRS 5 years ago was a predominantly white crowd so yes, you advertise to who comes to your bar. That’s business.”

    Funny but my business courses taught you advertise to those you want to come not to the people already coming.

  • JamJewel

    Doesn’t sound like San Fransisco has changed much since the early 70s when I was there last…..

    • s

      You are so lost. Not San Francisco, Washington D.C.

    • Black Pegasus

      @ S

      If the topic is [email protected] gays it really doesn’t matter which coast. They are everywhere! From San Fran to DC..

  • SonOfKings

    I really don’t see how a predominately White clientele would have a problem with seeing ethnic or Black men occasionally depicted in the advertisements, so long as they were hot. It think it’s more the personal prejudice and bias of the bar owner that has caused this flap. He should apologize for thinking so little of his customers, believeing they are as close-minded as he apparently is.

    • spacecadet

      Exactly!

    • mawbinatl

      @SonOfKings

      Spot on!!!

  • Kangol

    A white supremacist gay guy. I guess we now know that Milo Yiannopoulos won’t be alone in his infamy. Ernst Röhm would be so proud.

  • Neonegro

    This is a huge country, can’t we all have our club of choice.

    Some clubs are white, some are black, some are latino, some are mixed.

    Go where you want and let others enjoy their need for exclusivity or diversity.

    Jesus Christ….give it a rest with this endless racism cry.

    A black man on the flyer would have me thinking that it is a black clientele…and would have been a waste of my time once I entered the club. That is false advertising.

    The club owner is right.

    • Brian

      Eh, I think the geography plays a part here. In this case, the bar is located in a city that was majority-black for several decades — right up until about 2012. As a result, every bar has at least some “minorities” because minorities are so common there.
      Also, DC is not a huge city, and there aren’t a ton of gay bars. JR’s is on a strip in the heart of the gayborhood. It’s not as if people have to “discover” some unusual spot. It’s a chain, in the middle of a busy strip, with huge windows that allow people on the sidewalk to see inside. People know what it is. A single poster doesn’t change a well-known reputation, nor the view of their front-side patio, nor all those windows. A black model wouldn’t have been a ruse.
      I’ve been to JR’s. I’m not sure the owner’s story is so honest. The bar always seemed mixed to me (and I, a white guy, typically went with my two black roommates). The clientele was not usually so white, but it’s clear that the owner wanted it to be that way. Gross.

    • mhoffman953

      I wonder if it was a club who primarily catered to black clientele and the graphic designer used a white guy on the ad and then was asked to change it to a black guy then would the politically correct police complain then?

    • spacecadet

      A black man on the flyer would not make me think it’s a bar catering to black clientele. We live in America with a very diverse population. A black man on the flyer would lead me to think this bar has or is seeking to cater to and be inclusive of a diverse clientele.

  • Neonegro

    Thanks for the “man on the scene” report Brian, it paints a clearer picture.

  • Captain Obvious

    Yup this is why I happily left DC 11 years ago. Just walking down the street they’d act like you had a 3rd eye and neon green skin. No joke.

    Of course 11 years later they’re all fleeing DC and moving to Richmond(a primarily black city) and no one looks at THEM like that. All the while they attempt to gentrify the hell out of it. They can take that yuppie mess right on back to DC.

  • surreal33

    What is funny about articles of this nature…gay men feign that is not possible to be racist because they are gay. The truth is the only difference between racist white men and racist gay white men is racist gay white men sleep with men. Racist gay white men are culturally conditioned to believe white is superior and black is inferior same as what is taught to heterosexual white men.

  • Blackceo

    Yeah nope I don’t see the issue here. If this guy is making a decision based on what he knows his clientele prefers then he’s being a business man. He’s trying to put more $$$ in his pocket and in his business, which is what he should be doing. I will be the first one to call out some racist jerk. There are plenty of guys who post on Queerty I’m more offended by than this bar owner.

    If i had a club that catered to Black gay men I’m not putting a picture of some White guy on my ad. I’m going to put a Black or Afro Latino on there. This is just ridiculous.

    • spacecadet

      How would this guy know what his clientele prefers to see on the advertising? Did he take a poll? A mostly white crowd would only want to see hot white men in the advertising? That seems pretty ignorant to me. A lot of people, including myself, are not exclusively attracted to only their own race.

  • Sluggo2007

    This happened 5 years ago. Why all the commotion now?

    • spacecadet

      Did you read the article? The email was only recently released.

  • GayEGO

    He should have hired both guys, that would resolve the issue about whether or not he is racist.

  • Woody

    I don’t think the manager was being racist and I would have gone to Arabian nights- that wasn’t racist either. Some people are taking ‘politically correct ‘ to the extreme. I haven’t been to JR’s in a long time but for the longest time I was going it was a majority white crowd.

  • SportGuy

    This guy is a moron. The fact that the gay community ignores the huge race issue is the reason why it is hilarious that the community is getting upset because trumptards is about to take away equal rights. If our own community can’t be equal then we have no right to ask for anything until we fix the biggest issue, which is gay race issues.

  • Masc Pride

    Did David say something r cist in the argument they had? The flyer thing could legit be about business. I don’t think it should’ve been a huge deal to keep the black model, but if David’s crowd is very white, I don’t think his request for a white model was odd. However, this is why it’s the promoter’s job to provide any JPEGs (models, logos,etc.) they want used. Finding models shouldn’t have been Vartian’s responsibility in the first place.

  • Ari Gold

    So he wanted a white guy on his fliers. What’s the problem? Maybe he is racist, but you can’t make that call based on this one request.

  • gfmontreal

    This is obviously wrong and insensitive. The guy sounds like a racist. But I just want to simply remind everyone that for every little piece of advertising you see, weither on TV, Billboard, Magazine, etc., there was a conversation between a advertising company and a client about the type or model they want for their ad. Every faces you see in an ad was selected for their physical attribute (age, race, looks, hair color, weight, etc.). When you see a african-american person advertising something, there is someone who said ” I want an african-american person for this product”. And everytime you see a caucasian person, someone said “i want a white person”. So this bar is no different from any other company advertising a product. You just don’t see the conversation they ad about what type of model they want. I’m just wondering why people are surprise that this is how ads are made.

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