Finding 3


The business practices of bars in the Gayborhood substantiate the numerous reports of racism and discrimination the PCHR heard.

3A Modes of operation that allow for ad hoc, inconsistent, and arbitrary treatment of customers related to dress codes, ID policies, bar service, and treatment by staff creates a climate of “unwelcomeness,” exclusivity, and hostility, for LGBTQ people of color, women, and trans people.

3B Many people of color, women and trans people testified that they encountered obstacles to admission at the doors of businesses and poor service at the bars. While not formally investigated, the sheer volume of reports lends credence to the validity of the claims.

3C Employee handbooks and employee policies for most of the bars are not adequate and leave employees vulnerable to discriminatory practices. Significantly, only one of the bars subpoenaed had a dress code policy. In the absence of written policies, significant discretion is given to the staff, which can lead to disparate treatment.[1]

3D Employees and patrons who speak out about experiences with discrimination and mistreatment feel too intimidated to report their experiences or fear retaliation for reporting.

  • “What do I file about the hundred cuts of subtle racism that we have to endure every single day? What do I file when I go to the bar and the bartender looks at me and goes to someone else? M. Kenyatta
  • “On Saturday, September 17, 2016, I became another victim of covert racism in the Philadelphia Gayborhood. I tried to gain entrance to Woody’s and I was denied entry because I was wearing sweatpants and sneakers, and I was told that I was not in dress code according to the bouncer who was white. When I asked since when has there been a dress code, he responded by saying for a long time…bouncer told me that they’re actually being strict and refusing certain people because the owner who was white was actually in the building that night.” K. Jewel
  • “On several occasions, members of our collective [BBWC] have been profiled at the door and inside of these establishments in the following ways: Profiled for fitting the description by police officers in the establishment, particularly at iCandy. One member was taken outside and harassed when they asked why they were being asked to produce I.D. after already being let into the bar. Standing at the bar for incredible lengths of time to be served a drink as a while LGBT that arrived to the counter after were served.”  D. London
  • “The racism that caused me to leave has brought me back here again tonight and I’m not going to repeat. When I first went to bars in the Gayborhood I had a passport with me, not because I was going abroad, because I needed two IDs to get into the bar and sometimes my student ID and my driver’s licenses wasn’t enough.” E. Fowlkes
  • “I, as a black male have experienced racism in the Gayborhood, I have been turned away for not complying with a dress code, have been thrown out of establishments at the behest of a white person without explanation. I have been asked to show more than one valid ID. These are common experiences for black men and the hearing shows how universal an experience this is for black males.” Submitted by S. Johnson

[1]PCHR reviewed employee handbooks and/or policies for Boxers, Franky Bradley’s, ICandy, Stir Lounge, Tabu Lounge, Tavern on Camac and UBar, Voyeur, and Woody’s.No written employee policies exist for Knock. The Bike Stop did not respond to our requests. Deficiencies in many handbooks and/or employee policies include: specific procedures to report misconduct, clear statement of a “no-retaliation” policy, clear statement ensuring confidentiality in reporting, delineation of specific disciplinary procedures and progressive levels of discipline (i.e. warning, suspension, termination etc.), non-discrimination policies regarding patrons Tabu Lounge was the only establishment with a dress code.