"We didn't intend to offend anyone or create bad feelings — but we must acknowledge that it was handled poorly," the owner of ReBar, New York City's newest gay bar, said after finding himself at the center of a swirling controversy after multiple reports from patrons citing discrimination.
It started with one man's Facebook post detailing his account from Friday. In it, he alleged that ReBar was barring patrons of color from entering the space, citing that the bar was at capacity despite the bar being, in his words, "pretty dead and empty" once another employee let he and his friends in.
Commenters quickly began chiming in with similar stories before attention turned to the bar's Facebook reviews page, which began being flooded with words of surprise, disgust and confusion. "For a community that is supposed to stand for equality and inclusiveness, we really have work to do," wrote one commenter.
Throughout the weekend (when the events first transpired) and into the week (when word began to spread), ReBar remained mostly silent. Someone who identified as a manager gave a short statement to Edugaytion denying all culpability. "The situation is not real. ... We're not going to give it credence at all. ... We do not want to expand upon that. If we did, we would do it online."
With the the cacophony of complaints finally resonating, on Monday night ReBar owner Frank J. DiLuzio left this message for me on Facebook, which he later posted on the bar's Facebook page:
He ended the note with his phone number, saying to call him if I had any further questions.
Naturally, I did. On Tuesday night, I finally got through to him.
Mic: Can you break down what exactly happened on Friday night?
Frank J. DiLuzio: We had been open to the public for under 48 hours. As with any new business, there were a lot of pieces to be assembled and reassembled as we refine things. We made a decision to let the bar empty out to work on some of the operational and staff issues. We gave instructions to the door to allow entry only to guests on our VIP list. In turn, this created a line at the front door and the patrons were incorrectly told that we were at capacity when we were not. Management takes full responsibility for this miscommunication.
If the situation is, in your words, "not real," why are so many folks corroborating the same story?
Because there were so many people in the line that were, unfortunately, affected by this situation.
What took you so long to issue a statement?
We wanted to have a measured and appropriate response. We didn't intend to offend anyone or create bad feelings — but we must acknowledge that it was handled poorly.
Are you surprised at how big of a response this story has gotten from those within our community?
Nothing surprises us anymore.
What do you say to those saying they will no longer patronize ReBar as a result of these allegations?
Obviously we can't control who chooses to patronize us or not. We acknowledge that there were hurt feelings and anger, and we hope this dissipates with time.
Any regrets in how this all played out?
We regret that people were negatively impacted that night. We have addressed this communication issue and look forward to doing better.