A group of people say they were discriminated against when they were ejected last week from a Halifax bar.
Around 11pm on Aug 4, Mary Burnet says, she was dancing at Menz Bar when a bartender approached her group and asked them to leave.
“We had been there probably about five minutes when Darryll [Veniott], the bartender, came over and said, ‘Girls, you have got to go. You are not paying customers, so get out,’” says Burnet.
The situation escalated when the group left the bar but returned to question the bartender’s decision. They resumed dancing, and the bartender called the police to have them escorted out.
Veniott says he waited two or three songs before approaching a group of 11people and asked them to buy drinks.
When they refused, Veniott asked them to leave. Though they left initially, he says they returned 10 minutes later and hurled insults at him. Menz Bar does not have security staff, so Veniott says he called the police to clear the group from the bar.
“As they were leaving, each and every lady in the group told me to F-off and called me ‘faggot’ and other choice words,” Veniott says.
Halifax Regional Police received a call at 12:12am about unruly patrons at Menz Bar.
“Once we got there, they left without any incident,” says Cst Brian Palmeter, the squad’s media representative. “What they were doing before then, we are not 100 percent sure of. But we were just asked to move them along.”
Burnet says it was particularly offensive when Veniott called her friends “girls.”
div>“He was making some problematic assumptions,” says Burnet, an organizer of the recent Dyke and Trans March. “First of all, that we all identify as ‘girls.’ And secondly, that we don’t financially support the bar, or that we don’t belong in the bar.”
Burnet says she understands that Menz Bar needs to make money through drink sales but says Veniott should not have rushed to kick her out.
Veniott says he did not intent to offend with his use of the word “girls” and he would have apologized immediately if he had realized his language was upsetting to the group.
“If I offended anyone by calling them ladies, I am sorry,” says Veniott, who has worked at Menz Bar for three years. “To me they appeared to be females.”
Burnet says the group was treated differently because of their gender identities.
“I doubt very much that he would have treated a group of – what he perceived to be – men in the same way, if they were in the bar, dancing for five minutes,” says Burnet.
Glenn Blake, another Menz Bar bartender, says patrons are required to buy drinks unless they pay cover. He says the morning of Aug 4, bar management held a staff meeting to address the issue.
“If you are paying to come into the bar, you can drink or you can not drink,” says Blake, who was not working during the incident. “That’s totally fair. If you have paid your cover, cool.”
Burnet was surprised by the bartender’s reaction and says that Menz Bar is usually a welcoming place for all queer people.
She hopes to resolve the conflict by speaking with the owner of Menz Bar, Doug Melanson, who she says was a sponsor of the Dyke and Trans March.
Melanson offered no comment when asked about the kerfuffle, saying he spoke directly with Burnet’s group.
Veniott says he is upset that Burnet’s friends consider his actions “discriminatory.” When he left his shift at Menz Bar on Aug 4, he says, he was accused of bigotry by queer community members.
“With all the rumours, it’s like a slap on the face,” he says. “The fact is… Menz Bar does so much for the community. And I don’t want the females in the community thinking that we are not here for them, because we are.”