You know what’s really bad for business? Racism.
Over the weekend, drag queen Honey Davenport appeared at New York’s Monster, a bar just across the street from the Stonewall Inn in the city’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. This week, her appearance was different, however: when Davenport took the stage, she announced that she would not be performing and instead, dropped the mic and exited stage right.
“Each and every Saturday, I close out the motherfucking show, so are y’all ready for me to give you a number tonight?” Davenport asked to screams from the crowd. “Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, you won’t be seeing me perform tonight, because yesterday and I want you guys to listen to this carefully, I’m going to make this really short and really sweet so we can get back to this dance party.”
She continued, “Yesterday, I was sent a message from the general manager telling me that the advertisement for this party looked like they were promoting an event for Black people and that that was bad for business. He said that the two dancers we had on our stage tonight had to be replaced with beautiful people.”
As Davenport continued, she began to cry and shake. “After six years of literally laying everything I have on the line on this stage, I can no longer do it. So thank you so much for your love and support, but I can’t do this here anymore.”
She finished, while dropping her mic, “If you don’t want my people at the party, we won’t be there.”
Davenport later posted screenshots of the text messages between DJ Mitch Ferrino and the bar’s general manager, Italo Lopez, on Facebook. The screenshots do not include a full image of the flyer, though they do include a small portion of it and the manager’s response.
My art has no home where my people are not welcome.
The texts show Lopez saying the flyer “looks like we’re promoting black night,” which is “bad for business,” just as Davenport quoted.
In a statement to Out, Davenport said: “Taking this step away from a place that I had considered my home was terrifying, and it’s a huge comfort to know that my nightlife family has my back. I’m saddened by the stance that Italo (and in their refusal to respond, The Monster Bar) has taken but unfortunately, I’m not surprised by it. This happens everywhere. I had to speak up because I knew that not doing so would mean I was complicit in perpetuating these attitudes towards other artists. Other performers need to know that they don’t have to be mistreated. Our art has no home in a place where we are not respected. Not speaking up would be like saying ‘You just have to take this.’
Several people, including New York City council speaker Corey Johnson, tweeted their disgust with the texts at Monster Bar over the weekend.
Like are you kidding me? Your gay bar is 50 ft from where the gay rights movement began, a movement started by African American drag queens and trans members of our community. Shameful. #ItWasntAWhiteBoyWhoThrewTheFirstBrick@Honey_Davenport @KareemMcJagger pic.twitter.com/l3CAJWzUNi
— Mark MacKillop (@mark_mackillop) September 30, 2018
Im disappointed to hear the manager of @MonsterBarNYC engaged in prejudicial behavior. Sadly this is still too common in our LGBTQ communities. I welcome The Monsters apology, anti-bias training, and commitment that all people are welcome through its doors https://t.co/DuoDlibYBW
— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) October 1, 2018
So @MonsterBarNYC has a general manager who is racist and an owner who condones it. My funds will no longer go there. Disappointing to hear what happened especially in the West Village, home of #LGBTQ people especially people of color. Cc: @CoreyinNYC
— John M Blasco (@JBlascoNYC) September 30, 2018
So this weekend, an incident occurred at @MonsterBarNYC involving drag queen Honey Davenport’s manager and the bar’s manager. The bar’s manager sent a text message saying a flyer needed to change bc it looked like it was promoting a “black night” and it was “bad for business.”
— Friendly Liberal Otter (@Ic0nick) October 1, 2018
In the wake of the news, some other drag queens have cancelled their appearances at Monster. Drag queen Emi Grate said in an email to Lopez, obtained by Out, that she would no longer appear there.
“Any space that is unwelcome and unappreciative to black folks, I refuse to do business and build community in,” Emi Grate wrote. “I had always considered the Monster a safe haven for queer people of color, and it is gravely disheartening to see your comments. A proper public apology is in order.”
INTO contacted Monster Bar for comment and will update when we hear back.
Monster Bar released a statement about the incident on their Facebook page on Monday morning. The bar said it was “deeply upset” by the text messages.
“We at The Monster are not going to make excuses,” the statement reads. “Rather, we are using this as an opportunity to learn and to ensure it doesn’t happen again. When any member of our staff does or says something insensitive, we know it reflects on all of us.”
The statement said all bar staff will be taking part in racial sensitivity training.
“In closing, and on behalf of The Monster, I am sorry. I can’t take away any of the negative feelings you may have about us as a result of this situation, but I can promise that it does not represent us in the past, present or future. We will use this experience to grow and ensure our words, our behavior and our advertising represent us all,” the bar wrote. The statement also said that Lopez had resigned from his post as general manager.
Monster Bar is the latest in a long line of bars exposed for racist behavior. In October 2016 in Philadelphia, video footage showing then-owner of iCandy Darryl DePiano using a racial slur to disparage Black patrons leaked. The incident spurred a months-long campaign to address racism in the Philadelphia Gayborhood.
A similar event to the Monster Bar incident happened in January 2017 at Washington, D.C.’s gay bar JR’s when a graphic designer commissioned with making an ad for the bar leaked a conversation where the bar’s manager asked for a Black man to be replaced on a flyer with a “hot white guy.”