June 11, 2014 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Adams Morgan restaurant named in anti-LGBT discrimination complaint
gay news, Washington Blade

Lambda Legal has brought a discrimination complaint against an Adams Morgan restaurant on behalf of a transgender woman. (Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal)

The national LGBT litigation group Lambda Legal has filed a discrimination complaint on behalf of a D.C. transgender woman who says she received a check from a bartender at an Adams Morgan restaurant with the words “GAY BITCHES” written on it.

The complaint, which was filed on Monday with the D.C. Office of Human Rights, says a bartender at Bistro 18 hookah bar and restaurant at 2420 18th St., N.W., brought the check to the table where Amira Gray was sitting with eight friends, two of whom are gay men.

According to the complaint, the incident took place on Aug. 11, 2013. It says the bartender brought the check after the group “continued to be denied table service, instead requiring us on each occasion we wanted something to seek service directly at the bar.”

The complaint says that Gray, a trans woman, and her friends had seated themselves and observed that the wait staff “was attentive to customers at other tables, giving them menus and taking their orders right away, and carrying the orders to their tables but no wait staff approached our table.”

A representative of Bistro 18 couldn’t immediately be reached. Calls placed to the establishment on Wednesday led to a recorded message saying, “We are not available now. Please call again – memory full.”

“Discrimination against LGBT customers is a widespread problem that often goes unaddressed,” said Dru Levasseur, director of Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project. “That this happened in Washington, D.C., where LGBT people have strong protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and personal appearance, points out the importance of ensuring existing laws are enforced,” Levasseur said in a press release issued by the New York-based group.

Elliot Imse, a spokesperson for the D.C. Office of Human Rights, said that privacy rules prevent the office from commenting or acknowledging a complaint has been filed before an investigation is completed and probable cause is found that discrimination has occurred.

“If a person is denied the full and equal enjoyment of a service because of their gender identity or expression in a place of public accommodation, it could constitute discrimination under the Human Rights Act depending on the specifics of the case,” Imse said.

Levasseur said that like many people encountering what they consider discriminatory action by a business, Gray did not immediately come forward to file a complaint until now. He said the D.C. Human Rights Act allows citizens to file a complaint up to one year after the alleged discriminatory action occurs.

“As a transgender woman, I was extremely hurt, embarrassed and upset,” Gray states in her complaint. “I felt that the slur was meant as a slap in the face because of my gender identity and expression, my perceived sexual orientation, my personal appearance, and my association with my friends who are or may have been perceived as being lesbian or gay.”

A photo of the receipt, which was taken by one of Gray’s friends, shows that the words, “GAY BITCHES” were written directly below the words, “Thank You for Visiting.” The photo also shows that the bill for the drinks and hookah smoking device that Gray and her friends had ordered came to $152.30. That total included a $21.42 “automatic gratuity” and $11.90 in taxes.

“When one of Gray’s friends approached the manager to bring this to his attention, the manager snatched what he thought was the offending receipt out of the man’s hands and printed a new receipt without the slur on it,” the Lambda Legal press release says. “However, Gray’s friend kept the original receipt and captured photos of it,” the release says.

According to Levasseur, a Bistro 18 manager agreed to cancel the bill and not charge the group for its purchases after the friend complained about the service they received and showed him the receipt with the slur printed on it.

“She does not feel like that is enough,” Levasseur said in explaining why Gray decided to file the complaint.

Levasseur told the Washington Blade the receipt will be submitted to the Office of Human Rights as evidence along with statements from Gray’s friends who were present as the developments unfolded.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

15 Comments
  • I’m glad they brought this to light because it illustrates the fact that despite anti-discrimination laws, even in a place as diverse as DC, the increased visibility of GLTB people in the media, and victories on marriage equality in the courts, homophobia is alive and well and hasn’t gone away.

    Pisses me off when I hear gays say that gay bars or gay specific events for example are irrelevant today under the false assumption that society has accepted us and we can be ourselves anywhere. That’s just an illusion. You can force the hate underground but it’s still there like racism. You have not changed all the hearts and minds for many people who still look at GLTB people as an unwanted fringe forced upon them. Some people would rather see their business go under than have to cater to us. Simply saying it’s the 21st century and on the wrong side of history makes no difference to them.

    It’s even more annoying when younger gays say the are shocked by such behavior. They are so naïve when it comes to the long history of violence, discrimination and hatred we’ve faced.

  • Deacon Maccubbin

    Let me say, right up front…I’ve never been to Bistro 18 and am unlikely to every go. I don’t smoke, hookahs or otherwise. But it’s clear that this business is getting a raw deal from Lambda Legal and THAT is what concerns me. I speak as one of those who helped put the District’s Human Rights Law on the books originally so I know a little something about it and Lambda Legal (an organization I have always supported) has simply perverted the appropriate use of that law in this case.

    Yes, it’s clear, from both the complaint and the owner’s/manager’s statements, that a group of patrons were disrespected by a server at this establishment. That point is not in dispute. But when that was brought to management’s attention, they acted immediately to address the situation appropriately. They fired the server responsible on the spot. They apologized to the group. They comped the group’s drinks.

    The same group returned on a later date and, once again, the management comped their drinks to try to make up for the disrespect they had experienced before and to let them know that their patronage was welcome.

    Furthermore, the establishment has a history — they have often hosted LGBT parties and events, welcomed LGBT groups, and hired LGBT employees. There is no history of discriminatory actions on the part of this business, its management or employees, other than this one incident by this one former employee.

    The business responded appropriately and should not be castigated, by Lambda Legal or anyone else. The complaint will wind its way through the DC Office of Human Rights which will consider the statements and actions by all parties and make a determination. I’d be amazed if that determination was anything other than “not guilty.” It’s fine for Lambda Legal to represent the complainant, but they should do so within the parameters of the complaint process, not by fomenting unjust and defamatory vigilantism in social media.

    • The employee that made the offensive remark on the bill was fired? Where did you get that information? I’ve tried to read where in the article it says the bartender was fired? Where does it say the same group returned and was comped for their expenses again?

      Your comments read like you have some kind of insider information not released in the article. Do you work there? You seem to make it sound like this is a shakedown on the business by Lambda Legal Defense. Maybe the point of their involvement is to send a message that it’s discriminatory treatment under DC law and that there are consequences.

  • But there's more to this story, via The Bilerico Project: "Why Is Lambda Legal Cyberbullying a Small Business?" – AT THIS LINK: http://www.bilerico.com/2014/06/why_is_lambda_legal_cyberbullying_a_small_business.php

  • But there’s more to this story, via The Bilerico Project: “Why Is Lambda Legal Cyberbullying a Small Business?” – SEE LINK:
    http://www.bilerico.com/2014/06/why_is_lambda_legal_cyberbullying_a_small_business.php

  • Deacon Maccubbin

    Let me say, right up front…I’ve never been to Bistro 18 and am unlikely to ever go. I don’t smoke, hookahs or otherwise. But it’s clear that this business is getting a raw deal from Lambda Legal and THAT is what concerns me. I speak as one of those who helped put the District’s Human Rights Law on the books originally so I know a little something about it and Lambda Legal (an organization that I have always supported) has simply perverted the appropriate use of that law in this case.

    Yes, it’s clear, from both the complaint and the owner’s/manager’s statements, that a group of patrons were disrespected by a server at this establishment. That point is not in dispute. But when that was brought to management’s attention, they acted immediately to address the situation appropriately. They fired the server responsible on the spot. They apologized to the group. They comped the group’s drinks.

    The same group returned on a later date and, once again, the management comped their drinks to try to make up for the disrespect they had experienced before and to let them know that their patronage was welcome.

    Furthermore, the establishment has a history — they have hosted LGBT parties and events, welcomed LGBT groups and individuals, and hired LGBT employees. There is no history of discriminatory actions on the part of this business, its management or employees, other than this one incident by this one former employee.

    The business responded appropriately and should not be castigated, by Lambda Legal or anyone else. The complaint will wind its way through the DC Office of Human Rights which will consider the statements and actions by all parties and make a determination. I’d be amazed if that determination was anything other than “not guilty.” It’s fine for Lambda Legal to represent the complainant, but they should do so within the parameters of the complaint process, not by fomenting unjust and defamatory vigilantism in social media.

  • Deacon Maccubbin

    Why is a comment I made more than 7 hours ago still “awaiting moderation” while another comment made 58 minutes ago is already posted?

  • “She does not feel like that is enough,” Levasseur said in explaining why Gray decided to file the complaint.

    It wasn't enough that the server was fired on the spot? It wasn't enough that the bill was comped? It wasn't enough that the management apologized? It wasn't enough when the patron visited again after the incident and was comped her bill a second time? What will be enough?

    Also, other people have had no problem getting in touch with the bar owner/management to hear their side of the story. Maybe it takes a little leg work to get to the root of the matter.

  • They should. It was totally inappropriate and offensive.

  • Because that business shouldn't exist if they can't serve the entire public.

  • ^^^ Denny / John – If you haven't had a chance to read the Bilerico Project report, please do. Also, Deacon Maccubbin's comment posted online at the Blade (and here) offers a perspective you may not have considered.

  • Longtime DC gay advocate and owner of the former Lambda Rising Bookstore Deacon Maccubbin has posted this comment online at the Blade article: "Let me say, right up front…I've never been to Bistro 18 and am unlikely to every go. I don’t smoke, hookahs or otherwise. But it's clear that this business is getting a raw deal from Lambda Legal and THAT is what concerns me. I speak as one of those who helped put the District's Human Rights Law on the books originally so I know a little something about it and Lambda Legal (an organization I have always supported) has simply perverted the appropriate use of that law in this case. Yes, it's clear, from both the complaint and the owner's/manager's statements, that a group of patrons were disrespected by a server at this establishment. That point is not in dispute. But when that was brought to management's attention, they acted immediately to address the situation appropriately. They fired the server responsible on the spot. They apologized to the group. They comped the group's drinks. The same group returned on a later date and, once again, the management comped their drinks to try to make up for the disrespect they had experienced before and to let them know that their patronage was welcome. Furthermore, the establishment has a history — they have often hosted LGBT parties and events, welcomed LGBT groups, and hired LGBT employees. There is no history of discriminatory actions on the part of this business, its management or employees, other than this one incident by this one former employee. The business responded appropriately and should not be castigated, by Lambda Legal or anyone else. The complaint will wind its way through the DC Office of Human Rights which will consider the statements and actions by all parties and make a determination. I'd be amazed if that determination was anything other than 'not guilty.' It's fine for Lambda Legal to represent the complainant, but they should do so within the parameters of the complaint process, not by fomenting unjust and defamatory vigilantism in social media."

  • Mark Lee thanks – just finished it and I agree now there are definitely extenuating circumstances and it sounds like the resto handled everything appropriately at the time – this case will clearly go nowhere and it seems to be a social media smear campaign.

  • > BLADE UPDATE: "…two prominent gay activists – Deacon Maccubbin, founder and owner of D.C.'s now closed Lambda Rising bookstore and Richard Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance – …say Bistro 18 shouldn't be held responsible for a single employee’s action and that the restaurant has taken all necessary steps to remedy the situation. …Maccubbin, who notes that he helped lobby for passage of the city's Human Rights Act in the 1970s, said … that Bistro 18 was getting a 'raw deal' by Lambda Legal. 'There is no history of discriminatory actions on the part of this business, its management or employees, other than this one incident by this one former employee,' he said. 'The business responded appropriately and should not be castigated, by Lambda Legal or anyone else.'" – http://www.washingtonblade.com/2014/06/14/restaurant-manager-says-fired-server-writing-slur-check/

  • > BLADE UPDATE: "…two prominent gay activists – Deacon Maccubbin, founder and owner of D.C.'s now closed Lambda Rising bookstore and Richard Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance – …say Bistro 18 shouldn't be held responsible for a single employee’s action and that the restaurant has taken all necessary steps to remedy the situation. …Maccubbin, who notes that he helped lobby for passage of the city's Human Rights Act in the 1970s, said … that Bistro 18 was getting a 'raw deal' by Lambda Legal. 'There is no history of discriminatory actions on the part of this business, its management or employees, other than this one incident by this one former employee,' he said. 'The business responded appropriately and should not be castigated, by Lambda Legal or anyone else.'" – http://www.washingtonblade.com/2014/06/14/restaurant-manager-says-fired-server-writing-slur-check/

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