DMN’s Eats Blog reports old Jack’s Backyard spot to become restaurant complex

Over on DMN’s Eats Blog, Kim Pierce reported that the guys behind Bolsa, Smoke and Bar Belmont in Oak Cliff have their sights set on the old Jack’s Backyard spot. The nightspot, which was owned by Kathy Jack, abruptly closed earlier this year amid controversy to the dismay of may gay patrons who partook in drink and live music. Now, according to Pierce, Christopher Jeffers and Smoke exec chef Tim Byres look to turn the venue’s spot — heck, the whole block — into a bar/restaurant complex. From DMN’s Eats Blog.

Christopher Jeffers‘ baby is the Chicken Scratch-Foundry complex that’s going to be another amazing addition to North Oak Cliff. It’s not just a bar (factory-themed Foundry) tied into a restaurant (family-friendly Chicken Scratch), it’s a whole city block, whose shambling structures date to the 1920s. He took me on a tour to show me the vision.

One of the main buildings, where Jack’s Backyard was cloistered on Pittman at Commerce, will house The Foundry, which will be the first of the complex to open January-ish.

Like Pierce said in her piece, ambitious plans. Indeed.

—  Rich Lopez

Gay party-goers cry foul after Joule hotel bar turns them away at the door

Joule general manager admits that doormen were enforcing a gender ratio, but says practice isn’t anti-gay

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Cordey Lash
Cordey Lash

Gay patrons of the Joule Hotel’s PM Nightlife Lounge allege that they were discriminated against by door staff who denied them entry to the upscale downtown bar last weekend.

However, the general manager of the Joule Hotel said the gay patrons were turned away due to capacity issues and blamed the incident on a “breakdown in communication.”

The gay patrons said doormen at the PM Nightlife Lounge were enforcing a “gender ratio” on Friday night, Aug. 13 — allowing straight couples in while refusing entrance to gay men who weren’t accompanied by women.

The gay patrons said they were registered guests of a joint birthday party for three friends. One of the three hosts, all of whom are gay, said the party was booked in advance for more than 200 people.

Despite being on the guest list, gay patrons said they were made to stand outside in the searing heat as straight couples passed them by, and some eventually left without going in.

“There are very few times in life where I’ve felt like I was discriminated against. That was clearly one,” said Cordey Lash, who left after being denied entrance.

Chris Heinbaugh, the openly gay chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, said he was eventually allowed in to the PM Lounge — but only after confronting the general manager, who walked by as he was waiting in line.

Heinbaugh said he spoke with the general manager, Brendan Carlin, again by phone this week.

“I’m satisfied after talking with them that they get it,” Heinbaugh said Wednesday. “They understand why this was so frustrating. At least at that upper level, they don’t want to see that happen.

“My hope is that they communicate that to the folks they have on the ground, because the actions they’re taking, whether intentional or not intentional, they have the effect of discriminating.”

In an interview with Dallas Voice on Thursday, Carlin called it “a very unfortunate incident.”

Carlin acknowledged that the door person was enforcing a gender ratio to create “an even distribution in the room” — a common practice at straight bars.

But Carlin insisted that PM Lounge staff had notified the three hosts of the party in advance that the facility could accommodate only 50 of their guests.

Carlin said the three hosts didn’t pay for the party and would have needed to buy out the nightclub, at a cost of $25,000, if they wanted to have 200 guests.

Carlin said in addition to those who were invited to the birthday party, the PM Lounge had to try to accommodate hotel guests as well as people who are on a VIP list.

“There certainly are legitimate capacity issues,” Carlin said. “It’s one of the hottest nightclubs in Dallas. It fills up every weekend. They [the gay patrons] didn’t think we were at capacity … but I was told we were at our capacity, which is 210.

“Really this was a breakdown in communication more than anything else,” Carlin added. “Certainly we had more invitations sent out than we could accommodate. We certainly don’t have the capability to accommodate what at this point in time was 282 people coming to this event.”

Asked whether there could have been anti-gay discrimination involved, Carlin said, “Absolutely not.”

“I guarantee you we have this situation every weekend with straight people who can’t get in there,” he said.

Daylon Pereira, one of the hosts of the joint birthday party, said when he arrived at about 9:30 p.m. the club was mostly empty. Soon Pereira began hearing that people were being turned away at the door.

“After well over 100 of our guests were turned away, all of whom were on the guest list given to the door men, the club was still empty and many of our friends were made to feel like second-class citizens,” Pereira said. “Had it been an issue of crowd control, I could understand, but the fact that PM was close to empty, I am having a tough time looking at this as anything but ‘gay’ control. All of my straight friends who arrived with their girlfriends were granted access with no issues. … This was such an embarrassing situation which has caused me to spend this entire week writing apologies to my friends for the rudeness they were treated with.”

Chris Heinbaugh
Chris Heinbaugh

LGBT legal experts say gender-based policies at bars and nightclubs are widespread but represent a gray area of the law.

Rob Wiley, a gay Dallas attorney who specializes in discrimination cases, said some courts in the U.S. have held that policies favoring one gender — such as cover charges for men but not women on “ladies night” — are a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Wiley said he once successfully challenged a gay nightclub in New Orleans that had imposed a cover charge for women but not men. But he acknowledged that while such policies may technically be illegal, the law is rarely enforced.

“It’s not really as much about sexual orientation rights as it is gender rights, but you have this problem all over,” Wiley said. “If you are a place of public accommodation, you are not supposed to exclude people in protected classes. Unfortunately, that law which was passed in 1964, 40 some odd years later, still is not always complied with.

“Folks who are doormen at clubs ought to be trained about not discriminating against people on the basis of gender or the basis of sexual orientation, and they ought to keep their eyes open for this,” Wiley added.

Heinbaugh and Lash agreed that more training is needed. And on Thursday afternoon, Carlin reported that Lash had agreed to conduct diversity training for door staff at the PM Nightlife Lounge.

Lash also said he believes the incident serves as a reminder about the importance of — and continued need for — the gayborhood. He said he hopes someone will “step up” and open an upscale lounge that caters to the LGBT community.

“Instead of it being anti-Joule, now that I’ve had time to stop and think about this, we as a community have lost sight of why our gayborhood is there,” Lash said.

Lash, who’s worked in the hospitality industry for more than a decade and currently serves on the board of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, stopped short of calling for a boycott of the PM Lounge.

“It’s difficult for me to get on board with promoting something negative. However, I do 100 percent promote the Joule receiving inclusion training, and bigger than that, I promote our community looking at where we spend our money.

“I want to not boycott the Joule, but uplift those that support my community,” he said.

Lash, who currently works for the Hilton Anatole, also noted that this marked the second recent incident of alleged discrimination at a property in Dallas that’s affiliated with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

In July two gay patrons accused an off-duty police officer working security at the W-Dallas Victory hotel of anti-gay discrimination. An internal affairs complaint against the officer is pending.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts maintains a perfect score of 100 for gay-friendliness from the Human Rights Campaign.

Carlin said Starwood does not own or manage the Joule Hotel, but has a marketing agreement for the property.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Louisiana: Top & bottom

Southern Decadence is almost here, but even closer than the Big Easy is the Shreve

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor  jones@dallasvoice.com

BE GAY HERE | NOLA shows its pride with gay-friendly businesses boldly inviting queer customers in for some retail therapy. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

It was five years ago this month that Hurricane Katrina barreled through the Gulf of Mexico, ultimately ravaging New Orleans just before Southern Decadence, the gay end-of-summer bacchanal in America’s favorite municipal speakeasy, got underway.

Now, half a decade (and one more SoDec evac) later, the city welcomes its gay patrons openly. It might not be right to say it’s back — in some ways, it never went away, and in others, it’s more low-key — but the Crescent City remains a great draw for gay travelers.

But not the only one in the state. Even closer — about two hours by car — is Shreveport, a smaller town, more family-oriented burg best known now for its casinos. And while the gays in “the Shreve” make treks to NOLA for the big gay scene fun, there’s a lot to do here that’s cheaper and easier to get to.

So which is it: Extravagance or convenience? How about a little bit of both?

New Orleans

Now in its 39th year, Southern Decadence is a Labor Day weekend tradition that attracts countless gay men, a decent number of gay women and a surprisingly large contingent of straight people who come to revel in the exuberance. You can’t live in — or really even visit — New Orleans without being a little open-minded about sex and alcohol. But that’s not all there is to do.

New Orleans boasts two W Hotels, as different from each other as they can be. They do have one thing in common, though: An enthusiasm for gay clientele. (Last year at SoDec, one of the hotels hosted an Andrew Christian underwear fashion show and party that was as sexy and raucous as you’re probably imagining.)

The W Hotel New Orleans is a high-end high-rise with the W’s signature mod look (plums and scarlets with rich velvets and busy prints set the tone), including hipster-style lounge areas. (Whiskey Blue, the bar, exudes flashy urban cool.)

New Orleans
WHERE  THE BOYS ARE | Bourbon Street is gay bar central, with lots of rainbow flag and ‘to go’ drink spots along the flesh-filled streets. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

The “Wet” pool, lined with private cabanas equipped with TVs and room service, is as social as the pub and affords good views of downtown, as well as Harrah’s Casino, if you want a quick walk to empty your pockets. Zoe, the restaurant, is a multipurpose eatery open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving contemporary American cuisine in a relaxed setting. (A new chef was hired since last year’s SoDec.)

Just a few blocks but a universe away, the W French Quarter, nestled in the heart of party activity and historic sites, is a boutique property with small but charming rooms and a courtyard that looks like something from a Roman garden. A dramatic staircase overlooks a small shaded pool area with a dramatic fountain. Best of all, it’s shielded from the hubbub of the Quarter, but also in the thick of it, so you can go native or relax in a luxury cocoon.

The luxury element extends to Bacco, the onsite eatery from famed New Orleans restaurateur Ralph Brennan. In a town known for great food, Bacco is a standout for brunch or dinner, with the filet Oscar with a vegetable medley a heavenly bit of surf-and-turf, while the house shrimp entrée — whole prawns in a beer broth with rosemary and Creole spices — breath authentic Bayou cuisine.

The Ritz-Carlton splits the difference between the two Ws. Located on the corner of the French Quarter but with full-service amenities, it’s gorgeously ornate property constructed hacienda-style around a central court. The interior spaces are lush, and the amenities (an umbrella in the room in case you forget yours) justify the legend. (Rates at the Ritz are surprisingly affordable, especially in the summer off-season.) The Melange restaurant was relaunched as M Bistro, but the essence of the place — locally-sourced and organic foods predominate — remains.

CAJUN HEAT | The whole prawns at Ralph Brennan’s Bacco are a to-die-for dish.

The 41-story Marriott, also in the French Quarter, recently underwent a massive renovation and defies the old-school “Marriott-style” expectations. Its casual but tasty 5 Fifty 5 restaurant offers a marvelous takes on mac and cheese and oysters Rockefeller, and the bread pudding is more like pound cake doused in caramel and ice cream. Then again, you don’t come to NOLA to lose weight; you come to lose inhibitions.

The famous Brennan’s is unmissable for brunch, renowned for its alcoholic milk punch and of course its flaming bananas foster (which they invented). It’s an institution for a good reason.

Perhaps even more revered in the FQ is Arnaud’s. In a city that has taken casual exuberance to near pornographic extremes (flashing in the streets is not uncommon during Southern Decadence), Arnaud’s remains a bastion of erudition and dignity: The main dining room still requires gentlemen to conform to a dress code. We were fine leaving the coat and tie at home and holing up in the jazz bistro, where live music isn’t the only art: The food is (the menus are identical). Classic dishes, like the oysters Bienville and the house crab cakes, need to be tried. For dessert, treat yourself to the café brulot, a coffee drink with flames and booze and fruit prepared tableside. The show alone is worth it.

FRENCH  OASIS | The pool area at the W French Quarter is charming and quiet … and just steps from the hubbub of Southern Decadence. (Arnold Wayne Jones/.Dallas Voice)

The building that houses it is a massive structure that extends far beyond the well-appointed but gracefully ageing dining rooms; that’s true of a lot of New Orleans. Architecturally, it’s a monument to sturdy, bold structures that have weathered more than a few storms.

Galleries welcome browsers (and you can find some fabulous, often affordable art), and the street vendors are worth a look, too: From tarot card readers along Jackson Square to a permanent flea market along the waterfront, it’s a walking city meant to be enjoyed. (Dress comfortably, though — it’s a swamp in the summer, and it smells like it.)

You can enjoy most of the delights of New Orleans almost anytime during the year, but there are some definite key times to visit. The gay clubs book some racy headliners during Southern Decadence, but the entire city goes pretty gay during that time: There’s a street parade and the entire French Quarter becomes almost inaccessible to vehicles. Mardi Gras, of course, is also a draw, but also Halloween and even late spring, when the arts community comes out for the Saints & Sinners festival. That’s part of the charm of the city — the party never stops.

Shreveport

Those in Shreveport-Bossier City like to call their corner of the state “Louisiana’s Other Side,” but there’s much more to it than just NOLA’s poor relation. True, it does not celebrate SoDec in quite the same way, but be in town on Super Bowl Sunday with the Saints playing and you don’t doubt the city knows how to party.

A complete profile of the city will appear in two weeks in Dallas Voice.

Click HERE to see more photos.

…………………………….

LITTLE BLACK BOOK

Accommodations
New Orleans Marriott, 555 Canal St. 504-581-1000. Ritz-Carlton, 921 Canal St., 504-524-1331. W Hotel French Quarter, 316 Chartres St. WHotelsNewOrleans.com. W Hotel New

Orleans, 333 Poydras St. WHotelsNewOrleans.com.

Food & Drink
Arnaud’s, 813 Rue Bienville. Arnauds Restaurant.com. Bacco inside the W Hotel French Quarter, 316 Chartres St. Bacco.com.

Brennan’s, 417 Royal St.

BrennansNewOrleans.com.  5 Fifty 5 inside the Marriott, 555 Canal St. Whiskey Blue inside the W Hotel New Orleans, 333 Poydras St.

Resources
SouthernDecadence.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens