New Owners Take Over Austin Gay Bar, Kick Out LGBT Patrons

MoonThe Red Room, a gay bar in Austin, Texas, which used to cater primarily to a gay crowd is now at the center of a debate over whether customers were turned away because of their sexual orientation.

The new owners reportedly advised the staff that the bar will no longer be considered a gay bar, according to Josh Moon (pictured), who until recently tended bar there. Gay patrons were then asked to leave on Friday night, the first night of operation under new ownership.

The owners released a statement through an attorney to Houston news station KVUE saying “a private party rented the bar for the night and it was the private party that kicked people out, which is within their legal right.”

Moon claimed that a Facebook invitation for the bar on July 19 referred to the evening as a “grand opening,” not a private event.

“I think they were going to make it a continued thing and bring these people back every weekend, because that’s how they made it sound to us,” Moon said.

An Austin resident posted a comment about the incident on the bar’s page on Gay Cities, Queerty’s sister website, saying “they actually refused entry to gay and lesbian club goers, drag queens and more saying they weren’t following ‘dress code’ just to let in other people who were in short shorts flip flops and hats who appeared to be more straight in.”

Moon insisted he heard security tell arriving patrons “This is not a gay bar anymore, you’re not welcome. You can’t come in.’” Moon left the bar and was fired the following day.

“I can’t morally respect myself and be okay with this and stay here and work for you when you’re turning all of my people away,” he said. “You opened up a bar on 4th Street in the gay strip. You can’t do this to people.”

Watch KVUE’s interview with Moon below.

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  • Jackhoffsky

    this story is so weird on many levels. two months ago they had two weekend “grand openings”. they couldn’t get a crowd going no matter what they tried. the location is between three gay bars and nothing… an office building on the next block. AND this is the second time owners of a bar on the 4th street strip has kicked out gay patrons (that bar is now gay lol).

    Honestly, since the space became open, it seems like a running series of blunders. And this one is just stupid. Good for Moon for sticking to his guns.

  • Teleny

    Back in the 80s when I was a goth/new waver, our club was leased by a lesbian. The goth scene moved, but eventually the bar returned to Goth. For a couple of months it was a goth/Lesbian bar. It actually worked out pretty well. Eventually a new Lesbian bar in a better location opened ending the blend. Different cultures can coexist and even have fun if you try…,

  • MK Ultra

    “Private party” my ass.
    Put the intense microscope of pubic opinion and negative PR on them. All it takes is one slip up, and we’ve got ourselves a media blitz.

  • Derek Williams

    With an attitude like that, perhaps they won’t be in business very long anyway.

  • hyhybt

    @Derek Williams: Exactly. Why buy an existing business if you don’t want their existing regular customers anyway?

  • GymJockTX

    LOL. The new owners said they’d “be more careful about this in the future.” Good luck with the future of your biz, guys!

    Kudos to Josh Moon for stepping up to the plate about this. As a native Texan who is out to his family, friends and clients, I can honestly say it amazes me how redneck even Austin can be sometimes. The call this wonderful city the Blueberry floating in a big bowl of Tomato soup, but I wonder about that.

    Guys. We’re in the second decade of the 21st century. Can we at least pretend it’s not the 1890’s?

  • Snapdragon

    Why would the previous owner who I assume was gay EVER sell his business to someone that wasn’t gay knowing they were going to change the bar into a straight bar and kick his people to the curb ? More of the gay community hurting itself.

  • hyhybt

    @Snapdragon: The previous owner may well not have known their intentions. Or he might have been losing money and *needed* to sell to whoever was willing to buy.

  • Charli Girl

    Oh Lawd I’m going to have fun in this place….those str8 boys will wonder what happened to all them perty girl!!! BAHHAHAHAHAH

  • tchuy03

    Guys no reason to get upset, take your money and business else where! All money is green, and it is the new owners loss.

  • hyhybt

    @tchuy03: If there really are, as another poster has said, three other gay bars on the same block, perhaps there was no need for this one anyway, and it shouldn’t be that big a deal (in that sense) to shift to the others. But it still stinks.

  • Jackhoffsky

    @hyhybt: @Derek Williams: @Snapdragon: There’s a lot of stupidity here is Texas because we have alcohol Nazis that regulate everything alcohol and how it’s served. Licenses to serve stay with the building location, not with the people who own the business. The location are all historical buildings owned by millionaires, the businesses inside are owned by whoever can find investors.

    The building housed a restaurant that moved. So when an investor has a chance to get a building with a liquor license downtown, they jump at it without thinking. The RedRoom is a new business… but not doing very well. There was a lot of problems… shoddy promotions, retrofitted decor and not a very inviting when you have an established Neighborhood bar, sports bar, trendy dance club, and a bar to be seen at all in a row. There’s not much they could have added to the strip without a major overhaul, so there was tons of potential (dancing boys behind glass and private party rooms if they spent the money) but no one was buying into it just yet. I’m guessing the owners of the business saw failure in the 3/4 months they were opened and maybe they did a panic sale (cut their losses and run) as renting a building there is INSANE in price. And your right, the intentions of the new owners may not have been known.

    So I wouldn’t call it an “established business” because it takes us gays a little bit to warm up to a new bar that offers… nothing. The new owners probably thought that because there wasn’t much of a clientele they could change direction without much of an impact. That was a stupid mistake in that particular location.

    That’s what it SEEMS like from the outside. To add insult to injury… they were charging cover, which NO ONE charges cover around here. So that alone was a big “Fuck You” to anyone gay on its own before even the whole “dress code” thing. No gay person pays cover in Austin. I personally think that was the biggest ‘fuck you’ of everything.

  • Brian

    Ideally, there shouldn’t be any need for gay or straight bar divisions. These divisions create a siege mentality. All bars should be welcoming of everybody so long as you are not causing an affray.

  • hyhybt

    @Jackhoffsky: That makes a lot of sense. Well, that licenses work that way in Texas doesn’t, but you know what I mean.

  • Billysees

    @hyhybt: 11

    Simple and plane answer you’ve given —

    ” If there really are…three other gay bars on the same block…shift to the others. ”

    The moral of this story then is — shake the dust off your feet from where you’re not welcome and go where you are welcome, spend your time and money there.

  • Brian

    As a gay man, I reserve the right to go to any damn bar I please. I don’t see why I should be restricted by homophobic bar owners. Nor should I be restricted by gay bar owners and their financially motivated desire for cornering the gay market.

  • Snapdragon

    @Jackhoffsky: If as you say this was a start up business and not an established gay bar then I’m confused as t what all the fuss is about ? They couldn’t have had that much of a cliental if they were new and didn’t have the bells and whistles the other gay bars have….and id there are other gay bar on either side of this bar then theres the answer to the problem. if the owners of those are supportive and will help they along with the cliental of those two bars can crowd out or put the squeeze on the bar at issue. They can bring the gay party outside install canopies on the sidewalks set up table share their gayness, love and joy with all the straight patrons that enter the problem bar and before long the new owner will be looking to sell.

  • DCNimbus

    @tchuy03: Oh please- if they were turning away black people this would have been the next stop for the NAACP and Urban League. I love how when stuff happens to black people we fight- when it’s gay people it’s poo poo’d and we’re told to take our money elsewhere. I’m sorry- if this is someone’s favorite bar, why should they be turned away?

  • hyhybt

    @Brian: Depends on why you go.

  • Spike

    The lesbians should start going and just order coffee, and sit at the bar for hours. That should be GREAT for business.

  • dwndckd

    @ Brian- yes, you are right! You can go to any “damn” bar you please… Personally, I never have been to a gay bar… First because I’m str8; secondly, because it would make me feel uncomfortable. Needless to say– I tend to stay away from places that don’t make me feel as if i belong. Having said that—it’s good to live in a country that promotes capitalism and allows competition! My point is this- if you don’t like a certain place, or establishment then take your money and go somewhere else… As the consumer, you have the power.

  • Joetx

    This “no gays” policy won’t play well in Austin, the Blue Oasis in Red State Texas.

  • hyhybt

    @dwndckd: True… though only so long as there are genuinely different options. In this case, it sounds like there are.

  • dwndckd

    @hyhybt, I learned a long time ago that there are always options… The issue that arises is if individuals elect not to exercise those options…

  • miagoodguy

    Something tells me neither side is telling the complete truth. The new owners definitely have the right not to have their bar cater to a gay clientele (i.e. making it a gay bar) but depending on the laws, they can’t exclude certain people groups of people.

  • Cam

    Austin is open and accepting….FOR TEXAS. Even in places like Austin you’re still going to have some dumb bigoted rednecks pop up.

    The problem for them is that now the gay community is mad at them, and gay supporters who are straight will stay away from the bar…

    AND other rednecks won’t go there because it USED to be gay. lol

  • TrekBear

    Austin has a non-discrimination policy so the bar may be setting itself up for a lawsuit.

  • Ronnieindallas

    @GymJockTX: Austin is great if your an old hippie, hipster, or a straight white college kid; but it sucks for Gays! Houston and Dallas have always had far superior gay nightlife, and a lot more community activism.

  • Gautam

    Some points of clarification, as the original KVUE story has been updated. Firstly, KVUE is an Austin news station. Second, it’s not new owners. The original story on KVUE was inaccurate (corrected now). It is still the same owners as it was when it opened as Red Room two months ago. I was a regular customer there. I personally was not let in, and watched as people who didn’t meet the dress code get let in. I commented on it on Facebook at , after which I submitted the story to the local news outlets.

  • Cyn

    Yeah, they tried that here. Some hater bought the downtown gay club. We are a very gay friendly community, and straight people are always welcome. He tried the this isn’t a gay bar anymore thing. No one went to his club. He went broke fast, ended up selling to the owner of the two restaurants immediately up the block. Who promptly re established it’s a gay bar, the drag show and the all inclusive atmosphere.

  • jar

    @dwndckd: We gay people are accustomed to being made to feel uncomfortable in certain establishments. But that doesn’t make it right. Which is the critical point that you have overlooked. People were turned away solely because they are gay. That is unacceptable and, if there is a nondiscrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation, it is against the law.

    As an aside, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable going to a gay bar. We don’t bite.

  • BlogZilla

    We have alcohol Nazis because USA Americans are too stupid to know how to consume or do anything in moderation

  • gatrdave

    @Brian I have had discussions about such divisions with my friends in Maine. Yes, it is great that in many places around the country, there are clubs and bars where everyone is welcome and everyone goes. But sometimes a gay man or a black woman or an Asian couple might want to go to a club where everyone is like them where the music and the culture are all familiar. I like going to a bar that’s all gay men (which we don’t have here in Maine anymore outside of Portland-I must go to Montreal for that now). But that’s not to say I don’t like going to a club or a bar where my straight friends go.

    One issue that we’ve been encountering these past couple of decades as we fight for and achieve equality is that of assimilation. We, as a group, are becoming more mainstream and as that happens, we start to lose more of our identity. I don’t want to live a life exactly like my straight friends. I want to be a gay man who sometimes likes to go to a traditional gay bar with my gay guy friends, look at the hot guys, joke about “girl this” or “she that,” have a few drinks and have a good time.

    Abolishing “separate but equal” shouldn’t mean that we homogenize ourselves.

  • tazz602

    It’s sad, yes, but from the comments from others in Austin the new bar owners really don’t have much of a clue how to run a gay bar in Austin and probably won’t be in business long as a straight bar either. The change seems like a desperate attempt to stop a sinking ship. I remember the 90’s in Austin and the bar scene there will never be like that again after the city got rid of some very popular bars for the new civic center.

    But to chide the owners for wanting to change the bar, well, they own it, not the public, and it is their right. It has happened FOR us many times as well, at least here in Phoenix, a new owner comes in, buys a bar and makes it a gay establishment, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, like Austin the only way to own a bar in AZ is to buy property that already has a liquor license since new licenses for a bar have not been given out in years. If that bar was already established then if you change it’s focus and preferred clientele you are going to ruffle feathers, gay or straight. But in the end, it’s a business, and it’s their business decision.

  • dwndckd

    @jar, I appreciate the warm words. The bottom line here is this—as a consumer (str8, gay, otherwise), there are options available. If you don’t like the way an organization does business—there exist the option of going somewhere else… “A God given right.”

  • Jackhoffsky

    @BlogZilla: the TABC ( are not trying to keep anyone safe. In fact they want people to drink… there is a LOT of money in bad drinkers. They regulate everything from how bars purchase alcohol to what strip clubs can serve alcohol (it’s based on the amount of nudity shown). They can use kids who are actually under the age of 18 to bust businesses not checking ID. The Dallas Eagle raid fiasco… that was the TABC. Revoking licenses because bars stay open too late (giving everyone a chance to sober up before driving home… a big no no)… that is the TABC.

    Even how bars dispose of bottles is regulated. But it’s all due to a well oiled money making ego machine. It does not, in any way, have Texan’s well being at the forefront of their mission.

  • CowboyPhil

    OK I am a gay man, lets get that out of the way first off. If the new owners want to operate the bar as a strait bar they have every right. Gays do the same thing, and sometimes even worse, Try to sneak a female (lesbian or strait) into any of the remaining Eagles left in the country, Ramrod in Fort Lauderdale, or the Phoenix in New Orleans. The point is they can, and should have the right to choose their clientele. Is it wrong ethically. . . I dunno, but would we want a bunch of strait women invading your gay haunts, over-running them? I know you wouldn’t in the same regard if they want people of opposite sex that are interested in each other to be the exclusive clientele then they have that right.

    I am so over people getting all bent out of shape about things like this. Why would we WANT to go to a bar where we aren’t wanted. We wouldn’t want them forcing us to let them in our bars so don’t try to from them to let us into theirs.

  • CowboyPhil

    @dwndckd: agreed!

  • CowboyPhil

    @Gautam: Ummm forgive me for being ignorant but how in the world as you were walking up to the bouncer were they determining who was gay and who was not? Do they make you wear a sign in Austin? Seems to me that there had to be SOME other reason that they would not let you in. I have been into the most redneck places on earth (that certainly would NOT have let gays in) and they never knew by looking at me.

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