Elbo Room, a karaoke bar in Peoria, Illinois, which was formerly called the Quench Room and known as a gay bar, posted this sign at the window:
This sign basically screams homophobia and implies that Elbo Room does not welcome gay or lesbian customers, but Diesel down the street does. Supposedly this sign was put up because the owner of Elbo Room, Greg Quast, always complains about how many gay and lesbian people come into the bar. Regardless of however Elbo Room tries to justify its sign, it is wholly discriminatory and unnecessary to display such an offensive sign.
Bad, not-funny joke or not, this sign is insensitive and insulting. People don’t go out to bars to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Furthermore, considering that we are living in an economic downturn right now, many businesses are struggling to stay afloat and there should be no reason for any business to not discriminate against any group or not welcome them as customers.
In response to this horribly offensive sign, the gay community of Peoria organized three protests on Friday, April 10th and Saturday, April 11th. The protests were peaceful and cars driving by honked in support and solidarity. One vehicle driving by, however, shot paintballs at the protestors but was reported to the police. During the protest Quast was in a bar across the street.
Out and About Illinois, a website and publication that supports and serves as a networking/organizing site for the LGBTQ community in Illinois, asked Quast to privately make an official video statement to the gay community so that they could post it on their website full-length without any edits. Out and About also told him that this would be sufficient and he would not have to answer any questions. However, he ignored this request and just sent in a statement to WMBD TV on Thursday April 9th:
Recently a statement was displayed on a message board in my bar, the Elbo Room, indicating that it was not a gay bar. First and foremost, I would like to apologize for any unrest this has caused the community of Peoria, gay or straight. While I was not responsible for the sign nor was I present when it was posted, as the owner of the bar, I take responsibility and am sincerely sorry. I’ve addressed the situation with the individuals involved and I assure you this behavior is not tolerated or condoned at my bar. I will do everything I can to make sure nothing like this happens again.
The Elbo room is a karaoke bar. There is no sexual orientation attached to that. Anyone and everyone of legal drinking age are welcome.
Furthermore, this incident does not reflect my personal views. I have several close friends in the gay community who I have always supported and will continue to support in the future.
This emailed statement is the extent of Quast’s actions and he has yet to offer a formal public apology to the gay community. His reluctance and refusal to make a public statement acknowledging and apologizing for the offensive sign adds more insult to injury to the gay community.
Also, for someone who is taking responsibility and is “sincerely sorry”, Quast certainly makes it a point to distance himself from the sign. He says “I was not responsible for the sign nor was I present when it was posted” and “this incident does not reflect my personal views”. He also says that he has close friends who are gay who he has “always supported and will continue to support in the future”.
People need to get that having gay friends does not equal being open minded and a good ally to the LGBTQ community. Just like how people think that having friends of different ethnic backgrounds or trying out different ethnic foods automatically makes them all diversity-savvy. Again, true knowledge of diversity and being a good ally means to be conscious of and to examine power differentials and how certain groups are marginalized while others are not.