The D.C. Eagle gay bar and nightclub issued an apology Monday night for an incident two days earlier in which former mayor and current D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) accused an Eagle bouncer of assaulting him by pushing him out the door, causing him to fall and injure his back and hands.
Gray said through a spokesperson that the incident occurred when he attempted to enter the Eagle Saturday night, Sept. 29, to attend a city funded arts festival hosted by the Eagle and two other venues in Ward 7 called “Art All Night.”
Gray spokesperson Sheila Bunn said when Gray arrived at the Eagle about 9:30 p.m. the bouncer stationed at the door requested to see Gray’s identification. She said he refused to accept Gray’s D.C. Council ID card because it didn’t show Gray’s date of birth. When Gray, who’s 75 years old, politely asked to speak with one of the Eagles’ owners the bouncer walked out from behind a counter and shoved him out the door, Bunn said.
She said Gray fell to the ground and sustained an injury to his back and bruises on both hands in an incident that D.C. police classified as a simple assault. Police, who Gray called after being ejected from the Eagle, did not arrest the bouncer but have said the incident remains under investigation.
“We deeply regret that this situation escalated in the manner that it did and we appreciate and recognize the longstanding support and commitment Councilmember Vincent Gray has had for the LGBT community and the District as a whole,” the Eagle said in a statement sent by email to the Washington Blade shortly after 10 p.m. on Monday.
“For this altercation to have occurred, we do apologize,” the statement says. “The member of our security staff at the door that evening has only lived in the area for 4 months and [was] not familiar with Councilmember Gray’s service to the District. We will retrain all of our staff to ensure that a focus on customer service and de-escalation is adhered to.”
The statement adds, “At this time, we are conducting an internal review and are cooperating with the relevant District agencies and offices.”
It also makes an assertion about the city’s liquor law that one of Gray’s former election campaign spokespersons, Chuck Thies, says is not accurate.
“D.C.’s Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration regulations stipulate that their investigators may check the identification of any patron on our premises and anyone found to not have a valid ID would put our license at risk,” the Eagle’s statement says.
Theis points to the city’s law regulating establishments licensed to serve alcoholic beverages, which requires licensees to check whether a customer has a valid ID bearing his or her date of birth at the time when they seek to buy a drink if it is unclear that the customer is of legal drinking age. Theis notes that the law does not require a person to have a valid ID as a condition to be admitted to a licensed establishment such as a bar or nightclub.
“The establishment is required to determine age prior to serving alcohol,” Thies said. “That said, they do not have to check ID if/when age is obviously not a factor” such as when a customer is obviously older than D.C.’s minimum drinking age of 21, he said.