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D.C. gay bar patrons welcome proof of vaccination requirement

Eight of city’s 12 LGBTQ bars require vax or proof of negative COVID test

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JR.’s is among the city’s eight LGBTQ-identified bars that requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The overwhelming majority of patrons of the eight D.C. gay bars that announced earlier this month that patrons must show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for being admitted have expressed support for the vaccination policy, according to employees and patrons of the bars.

The decision by the eight bars to require either proof of vaccination or proof that a potential customer has tested negative for the coronavirus within the previous three days came shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an order reinstating the city’s requirement that face masks must be worn inside all businesses and other establishments open to the public, including bars and restaurants. The order took effect July 31.

The mayor’s order applies to all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two.

Nightlife sources have said the number of patrons appeared to have declined to some degree in early August at most of the city’s 12 LGBTQ bars, including the eight that adopted the vaccination requirement. But some associated with the bars, including David Perruzza, owner of Pitchers and lesbian sports bar A League of Her Own, which operate in the same building in Adams Morgan, said August is normally the slowest month of the year for bars and other nightlife businesses.

Others familiar with the city’s nightlife establishments have said the newly established mask requirement — rather than vaccination requirements — appeared to initially discourage some people from going out to bars and restaurants. Those familiar with nightlife establishments said regular customers quickly returned to their favorite bars and restaurants after realizing that the mask requirement does not apply to people who are “actively” eating or drinking at an establishment.

According to sources who spoke with the Washington Blade, business appeared to be booming at most of the D.C. queer bars this past weekend.

In addition to Pitchers and A League of Her Own, the other LGBTQ bars that require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test include the Logan Circle area bars Trade and Number Nine; the 17th Street, N.W. bar JR.’s located near Dupont Circle; and the U Street, N.W. area bars Nellie’s, Dirty Goose, and Uproar Lounge & Restaurant.

“Hands down, if we had one person complain about it, we had 40 people applaud it,” John Guggenmos, co-owner of Trade and Number Nine told D.C. Eater.com. He was recounting the reaction to his bars’ vaccination requirement during the first week the requirement was put in place.

“There were people that were like, ‘Oh my God, this is great, Let me text my friends a picture.’ Or Tweet it out. It’s about time. Everybody needs to step up,” Guggenmos told D.C. Eater.

The remaining four LGBTQ bars that have not adopted the vaccination or negative test requirement include the Fireplace on P Street, N.W. near Dupont Circle; the Green Lantern near Thomas Circle; Larry’s Lounge on 18th Street, N.W. near Adams Morgan; and Windows or DIK Bar, which is located above the Dupont Italian Kitchen restaurant on 17th Street, N.W. near Dupont Circle.

Also adopting a policy requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test result is the Crew Club, D.C.’s gym, sauna, and bathhouse for gay men, which reopened this past weekend at its 14th Street, N.W. location.

The Crew Club had been closed since the city’s COVID-19 related restrictions were put in place over a year ago. It announced on its website that it will initially be open only from Fridays through Sundays until further notice, when it expects to return to a seven-day, 24-hour schedule.

The eight D.C. LGBTQ bars that have adopted the vaccination or negative test requirement are among a total of about 25 bars in the city that have adopted such a policy. Nightlife observers say most of the 25 or so bars adopted the vaccination policy around the first week of August and few others have followed the lead of that initial group of bars that put the policy in place.

One source familiar with the city’s bars and nightclubs, who spoke on condition of not being identified, said nightlife industry insiders don’t believe many more will adopt a vaccination or negative COVID test requirement on grounds that D.C.-area residents have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country and most patrons will likely have been vaccinated.

Data recently released by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, based on a national survey, showed that 92 percent of LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S. had received at least one vaccination shot for COVID-19.

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

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Maryland

Hyattsville mayor dies by suicide

Kevin Ward and husband adopted son in D.C. in 2012

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Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward (Photo courtesy of the city of Hyattsville)

The city of Hyattsville released a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing that their city’s openly gay Mayor Kevin Ward had died one day earlier by an apparent suicide.

“The city of Hyattsville reports with great sadness that our beloved Mayor Kevin Ward passed away yesterday, Jan. 25, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the statement says.

“Mayor Ward was a valued and trusted leader and a fierce advocate for all the people of Hyattsville,” the statement continues. “We are heartbroken at this loss and extend our deepest sympathy to the mayor’s family,” it says.

“No further information is available at this time,” the statement adds. “Details about services and remembrances will be shared when they are available.”

The Washington Post reported that U.S. Park Police disclosed that Ward was found deceased in Fort Marcy Park in McLean, Va., with a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Ward, 44, became acting mayor of Hyattsville on Jan. 1, 2021, following the resignation of former Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. He was next in line to become mayor under the city’s political system in his then-position as president of the Hyattsville City Council.

He won election to complete the remainder of Hollingsworth’s term through 2023 in a May 11, 2021, special election, receiving 57.8 percent of the vote in a three candidate race, according to the Hyattsville election board. His closest opponent, Joseph Solomon, received 31.7 percent of the vote.

Nearby fellow gay mayors — Patrick Wojahn of College Park and Jeffrey Slavin of Somerset — said they got to know Ward through Maryland political circles and thought very highly of him.

“He was insightful, smart and dedicated,” Wojahn said. “He always seemed very confident and together as a person. And he had a great sense of humor.”

Slavin said he shared that remembrance of Ward, adding that he found Ward to be a “very nice person” dedicated to the people he served both as mayor and during his two terms on the Hyattsville City Council.

“There was noting in his public life that would have predicted this,” said Slavin in referring to Ward’s sudden passing.

The Washington Blade first reported on Ward in 2012 in a feature story on Ward and his then-domestic partner Chad Copeland when the two attended a ceremony at the D.C. Superior Court to complete the process of adopting their then-5-year-old son Norman. Ward and Copeland were among several gay couples who had their adoption papers signed by a judge at the ceremony.

On the website for his mayoral election campaign last year Ward said he and his family made Hyattsville their home in 2014 after he and his husband adopted their two sons.

“I am a pretty straightforward person,” he said in message to voters on his campaign website. “I believe in listening more than talking. But when I talk, I am not one to mince words or tell people what they want to hear,” he said. “I believe in doing the work. I believe that if I can help someone, then I can change her or his life,” he continued.

“This is why I dedicated my career to providing the best technology to education and to human services, to help as many people as I can,” he said.  

Ward was referring to his career in the field of educational and human services technology.

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District of Columbia

ANC supports license for Capitol Hill LGBTQ bar

Lesbian owners back ‘settlement agreement’ with restrictions on hours

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AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel are the bar industry veterans behind As You Are Bar. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)

The Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support a liquor license for the LGBTQ-owned As You Are Bar, which plans to open in a two-story building at 500 8th St., S.E. in a commercial section of Capitol Hill known as Barracks Row.

The ANC’s decision to support the license took place at a virtual meeting attended by nearby residents and supporters of the bar after its owners, lesbian activists Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike, agreed to the terms of an ANC settlement agreement that calls for restrictions in the hours the bar can offer dancing, entertainment, and music from a DJ.

The agreement means the ANC will not file a protest against the license before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a development that would have delayed a decision on the license by the ABC Board by as much as seven months. A protest by the ANC could have cost the bar thousands of dollars in legal fees to contest the protest by providing legal arguments seeking the approval of the license.

The ABC Board makes the final decision on whether to approve all liquor licenses in the city.

McDaniel and Pike have said they plan to operate an upstairs dance bar during evening hours and a café on the first floor during the day as well as in the evenings that will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture.”

The two, who are business and life partners, say As You Are Bar will welcome people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities as well as drinkers and non-drinkers as customers.

They have also told the ANC and nearby residents they have taken steps to soundproof the building, which they are renting, to ensure their plans to operate a dance bar with music from a DJ on the second floor will not disturb nearby residents.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, which was posted on the ANC’s website prior to the start of the meeting, the bar’s operating hours will be from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Under D.C. law, bars are allowed to remain open for the sale of alcoholic beverages until 2 a.m. during weekdays and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Settlement Agreement further calls for As You Are Bar to restrict the hours of consumption of alcohol from 12 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It calls for allowing live entertainment and dancing (indoors only) from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 12 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

However, the agreement says DJ and amplified music will not be permitted after 8 p.m. on weekdays.

 McDaniel told the Blade that at the request of As You Are Bar’s attorney Richard Bianco, the ANC agreed to modify that restriction at the Tuesday night meeting to allow the bar to play “conversational” background music after 8 p.m. until closing time on weekdays.

 Among other things, the agreement requires the bar comply with a noise mitigation provision to “ensure that sound, noise, and vibrations are not audible or felt beyond the curb or any other premises at any time.” It also calls on the bar to provide an “appropriate number of staff” to monitor patrons as they leave the bar through the 8th Street entrance to “prevent loud voices and littering.”

Under rules established by the ABC Board and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration or ABRA, if a settlement agreement is reached between an applicant for a liquor license and the ANC, a protest against the license by groups of five or more citizens is not allowed. Protests could still be filed by community-based civic groups and residents of an “abutting” house or residential facility.

In the case of As You Are Bar, no citizens group has emerged to oppose the license. There is just one abutting townhouse on E Street whose owner has expressed general support for the settlement agreement, according to McDaniel. But the resident has indicated she will not rule out a possible protest until Feb. 7, which is the deadline for filing a protest under ABRA’s rules.

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