Two gay bars in New Orleans. The Phoenix and The Rawhide Lounge are accusing that the state’s Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) have unfairly singled them out for citations just one week before Mardi Gras.
In a Facebook post, The Phoenix wrote:
ATC cited us that we were in violation of some state laws. The citations were not unlike what we have seen them recently give other gay bars. We plan on attending our hearing and stating our case.
An attack on one of us is an attack on all us. We hope you stand with us…. We have been so honored to be a part of this community for more than 35 years. We love hosting the local queer groups for monthly fundraisers and special events.
As we work toward our hearing date, the entire bar is open, upstairs and down.
In the past the ATC has suspended three bars’ liquor licenses over charges of facilitating sex work, underage stripping and drug sale.
Louisiana law prohibits public and non-public “indecency,” but the law is vaguely written and selectively enforced. The Phoenix is known for it’s upstairs “dark room” cruising area.
Michael Musa, Director of Operations at the Rawhide Lounge, told Big Easy magazine the ATC imposed “numerous fines, citations, and imposed regulations on how to operate,” after the city’s 2018 Southern Decadence celebration:
According to Musa, when The Rawhide’s lawyer asked the ATC commissioner why the citations issued were harsher than those previously given to New Orleans strip clubs charged with prostitution, the commissioner said that she “felt these violations were worse.” The lawyer then asked if she truly felt that “acts between two consenting males in a restroom” were worse than prostitution. The commissioner backtracked.
The New Orleans Human Relations Commission (HRC), the city government’s civil rights office, has also issued the following statement:
We are aware of the recent enforcement actions taken against the The Phoenix, The Rawhide and others. We stand with our LGBTQ+ residents and our LGBTQ+ owned businesses and we always will. These enforcement entities are *not* under the City’s control, but we are concerned whenever our residents feel targeted. We are actively engaging all involved and will continue to do so.
It’s estimated that about 100.000 LGBT people visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras.