Owner sets date for Hideaway reopening

The view of the Hideaway from Dallas Voice offices.

I spoke with Hideaway owner Lonzie Hershner earlier this week to get the latest update on the club’s status. The Hershner family, which also owns the Tin Room and the Drama Room, bought the Hideaway after the bar closed in 2009 after more than 25 years. Lonzie Hershner’s brother, Marty, passed away in 2010.

From Dallas Voice’s offices, we can look to see that construction at the Hideaway — 4144 Buena Vista St. —  has really ramped up over the last couple of weeks, and Hershner confirms that the end of the tunnel is in sight.

“We finally got all the permits and all wheels are turning now,” he said. “We’ll be actually open for business in three weeks.”

This was a pleasant shock to hear. As neighbors to the club, construction seemed to slow down toward the end of 2011, but then picked up in January. With both interior and exterior upgrades, the club is finally taking its shape again after being gutted.

“The building had to be broken down to the frame and we had to start from scratch. The majority of the flooring had to be replaced, support beams, extra touches. This was a lot more work than we thought it was gonna be,” Hershner said.

—  Rich Lopez

Lakewood Bar & Grill, which was home to queer music event Twist Dallas, shuts its doors

Jay Bean, left, and SuZanne Kimbrell performing at the now closed Lakewood Bar & Grill. (Photo via Facebook)

Perhaps this is why local musician SuZanne Kimbrell, pictured, was looking for a new spot for Twist. She had mentioned that she wanted to move the bi-monthly queer music event to another venue, but was this the reason? Pegasus News reports today that LBG “closed abruptly on Wednesday, with the news delivered via a lock-out and ‘non-payment of rent’ sign taped to the front door.” According to the post, Emmeline was among those booked for the remainder of the week. She had performed at one of the Twist events before.

With the Balcony Club’s troubles and the Lakewood Tavern set to close in October, Lakewood is drying up fast with venues and bars. What does that mean for the gays? Maybe not much, but the area is quite gay-friendly as have those venues been. They don’t walk the line of gay/straight like The Grapevine or Barbara’s Pavilion, but Lakewood as a nightlife destination, even for LGBTs, would be sorely missed.

—  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

Looks like Panda’s got an extreme makeover

The next time you’re cruising the Crossroads and get a hankering for broccoli and beef, your reliable Panda’s spot is going to look a whole lot different. Their website announces the grand opening of Mr. Panda’s Restaurant and Bar on July 12. By the looks of the snazzy site, hip graphics and photo gallery, the place is looking less like a restaurant and more like an ultra lounge. I guess they wanted to fit in a little better into the surrounding nightlife.

I couldn’t seem to access the menu but the eats will still be available till late for those post-dance munchies. The restaurant will stay open every day until 4 a.m. We just wish they would serve these cute cupcakes. Seriously, these would be endangered and then extinct in no time.

—  Rich Lopez

DPD issued at least 7 citations during enforcement operation at Dallas Eagle

Senior Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, told me Tuesday morning that DPD issued seven citations on Friday night during an enforcement operation at the Dallas Eagle. Janse said the arrests were made at-large, meaning no one was taken into custody. Six of the citations went to bartenders for sale of beer without a license, a class-B misdemeanor, Janse said. The other citation went to the owners of the Eagle for allowing dancing without a dance hall permit, a class-c misdemeanor. Janse said it’s also possible that patrol officers made one arrest for public intoxication, but he was unable to provide further details. Patrol officers were called to assist the vice unit, which conducted the initial investigation, Janse said. These criminal charges are in addition to an administrative fine Eagle owners will face from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for selling alcohol away from their licensed premises.

Some have taken issue with the manner in which this operation was conducted. Rather than simply contacting the bar owners and explaining that they could not sell alcohol at the new location, DPD and TABC chose to conduct a large-scale enforcement operation. But I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this, given that it seems to be a common practice. So, I can understand the charges against the owners for allowing dancing without a dance-hall license and selling alcohol away from the licensed premises. However, I’m having a real hard time with the decision to file criminal charges against bartenders for a licensing issue they likely weren’t even aware of, and I plan to ask both TABC and DPD to explain this. If they can’t provide a valid explanation, these charges should be dropped.

—  John Wright