A mass walkout at Crews/Tango on Sep 6 marked the beginning of a boycott by patrons protesting the Church St bar’s new music restrictions.
Sources say regular DJs were asked by management to stop playing reggae, soca and reggaeton music in their sets.
“It’d be fine if they said that they were just going to change the bar atmosphere,” says Milo de Milo, who has been hosting a weekly drag king event in the back area of the bar called the Zone, “but they said they are changing the music because of the bar sales, because apparently ‘these types of people’ who come in and listen to reggae, soca and reggaeton don’t buy alcohol.”
“Indirectly it’s racist because the reason they decided to stop playing it is not because they don’t like it or they’re not a reggae/soca bar,” says drag king Tyler. “It’s mainly because, as they’ve stated, they don’t believe that people of ethnic backgrounds spend as much money as Caucasian people.”
The walkout took place during the Wednesday drag king event. De Milo, along with drag kings Sabastien Cognito, Jacob, Tyler, Sawyer and Rider Gently, performed a series of politically pointed numbers on the issue of racism before leading the crowd out of the bar at 1am. Approximately 35 people were involved in the walkout, leaving the back room nearly empty.
The bar’s owner declined to comment on either the walkout or the music policy.
While walkout coorganizer de Milo is skeptical that the boycott will change the new music policy, he says it was important to take a stand.
“They don’t even care that we’re boycotting because we’ll just get replaced,” says de Milo, “but it matters to us and that’s why we’re doing it.”
In addition to concerns around the new music policy, walkout participants complained that the bar has been too quick to turf nonpaying bargoers. Last month Romeo Pierre, a would-be contestant in Candice’s Star Search held at the club, was told he couldn’t compete because he had not purchased any drinks. He says he was asked to leave.
Several trans people in the crowd also complained of rude treatment from bar staff, including being addressed using gender pronouns other than those they’ve been asked to use.
“As far as I know they haven’t assisted anyone who’s trans when they’ve had problems in the bar,” says Justin Zaas.
“Whereas they give a false notion of being an open and friendly bar, really they’re not,” says drag king Tyler. “They just cater to those clientele that they believe can spend enough money to make them profitable.”
Rider Gently says he’s disappointed that a queer establishment would give the impression that it wasn’t welcoming of some homos.
“It doesn’t matter what colour you are. In a community where people live their whole lives or at least part of it knowing what it’s like to be discriminated against, I would expect a heck of a lot more from the flagship bar on Church St.”
Although it’s unclear what effect the boycott will have on the Church St venue, walkout participants were optimistic that their point had been made.
“People showed up and people walked out and if that gets people talking, then we’ve done our part,” says Rider Gently.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t going back again,” says boycotting bargoer Jacob Parcher. “Once other people hear about what’s going on it will spread around and be more effective. There will definitely be a change in clientele. It won’t be as good as it was before.”