TABC renews contract with RCD

Carolyn Beck

Beck says center will provide diversity training for about 50 new TABC employees

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

AUSTIN — A spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission confirmed this week that the agency plans to continue LGBT diversity training for its employees, which she called “one of the positive things that came out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said Thursday, March 17 that the agency has signed a new contract for LGBT diversity training with Resource Center Dallas.

A few months after the raid of the Fort Worth gay bar in 2009, TABC paid Resource Center $14,212 to train all of the agency’s roughly 700 employees — in a series of 24 two-hour sessions in 11 locations across the state.

This time, Resource Center will train the roughly 50 TABC employees who’ve been hired since the initial round of training was completed last year. The second round of training, at a cost of $2,700, will take place during sessions in Dallas, Houston and Austin between March and July.

“We thought it was important at the time for our employees to receive diversity training like this, and it’s still important for the same reasons that it was before,” Beck said. “It really only makes sense if you continue the training. … The training is one of the positive things that came out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

TABC, whose agents raided the bar along with officers from the Fort Worth Police Department in June 2009, later fired three employees for policy violations related to the incident.

TABC Commissioner Alan Steen has publicly apologized for the raid on at least two occasions.

TABC reportedly is the first state agency in Texas to conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training for all of its employees.

Beck, who also serves as TABC’s liaison to the LGBT community, said she doesn’t believe diversity training would have prevented the Rainbow Lounge raid.

However, she said the training has been beneficial to the agency.

“The one thing about it, across the board, it creates a lot of discussion, which I think is in itself a positive thing,” Beck said. “The training pushes some people’s boundaries, which I believe is the intent.”

Rafael McDonnell, strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas, said the new training contract is the culmination of efforts that began last spring, when TABC solicited input on its strategic plan.

“I think this shows that TABC is committed to treating the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community with respect and dignity by having all of its employees learn about who we are,” said McDonnell, who helps conduct the LGBT diversity training.

“We did surveys and proved that there was a demonstrated increase in knowledge about the LGBT community among the employees who took part in the training,” McDonnell added. “It shows that what we did is making a difference throughout the state, and that’s extremely gratifying.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Top 10: FW changes continued in wake of Rainbow Lounge

Rainbow.Lounge
FROM PROTEST TO PARTY | The Rev. Carole West, left, and David Mack Henderson, right, both of Fairness Fort Worth, are shown with Chief Jeffrey Halstead during a barbecue at the Rainbow Lounge on June 28 to mark the one-year anniversary of the raid. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

No. 8:

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When the Fort Worth Police Department  and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage raided the Rainbow Lounge on June 28, 2009 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion — it sparked outrage around the world and enough headlines to fill newspapers for the rest of the year.

But the story didn’t end with 2009, as repercussions from the raid continued this year.

Publicity from the raid undoubtedly helped punch up business for the Rainbow Lounge, enough so that by January, the bar’s owner, J.R. Schrock, announced that he had a second bar — Percussions — in the works, as well as a third club and possibly a fourth.

In February — despite acknowledgments from both TABC and FWPD that the raid should never have happened — officials with the Fort Worth city attorney’s office said they were going ahead with efforts to prosecute those arrested in the raid, including Chad Gibson, the young man who suffered a lasting brain injury while in TABC custody.

One of Fort Worth police Chief Jeff Halstead’s first acts after the raid was to appoint openly gay officer Sara Straten as his department’s first full-time liaison to the LGBT community.

On June 28, as a way of highlighting the progress the city had made in the year since the raid and improved relations between the police department and the LGBT community, Rainbow Lounge held a party attended by Halstead, Straten and many of the officers who patrol the area in which the bar is located.

Despite the progress though, in July anti-gay forces packed the City Council chambers to once again protest the council’s vote the previous November to amend Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance to offer protections to transgenders and other initiatives proposed by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.

At the end of the public comments section of the meeting, Mayor Mike Moncrief told the crowd that while “there is room for all of us” in Fort Worth, “What’s in the Bible or what isn’t in the Bible, that’s not our job. Our job is to maintain the quality of life in our city, and that’s what this [diversity] training is all about.”

As the year continued, more examples of the changes in the city emerged: The police department reached out to the LGBT community in looking for new recruits. Halstead announced plans to start a hate crimes unit. The annual Tarrant County gay Pride celebration expanded, adding a block party and holding a parade and picnic far larger than in years past.

In September, the council quietly approved adding domestic partner benefits for lesbian and gay city employees, and in mid-November, the city attorney’s office announced that all charges against those arrested in the raid were being dropped.

Perhaps one of the most welcome results of the Rainbow Lounge raid, however, was the emergence and continued growth of Fairness Fort Worth.

Formed quickly in the wake of the raid to offer assistance to witnesses who wanted to testify during investigations into the raid, the group has morphed into an active LGBT advocacy organization complete with officers and a strategy for the future — filling a void that has long existed in Tarrant County’s LGBT community.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

TABC issues 1st licenses in dry Dallas areas

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has issued the first two liquor licenses to restaurants in the formerly dry areas of Dallas, according to a press release we received today.

A mixed beverage permit ihas been issued to Bee at 202 West Davis St. near the Bishop Arts District. This will be the first restaurant in Oak Cliff to serve alcohol without a private club permit since the area went dry in a 1958 election.

The first convenience store south of the river will be able to sell beer and wine as well. That store is on South Loop 12 Ledbetter.

On Nov. 2, a local option was held, legalizing wine and beer off-premises, as well as mixed beverage permits in restaurants that hold food and beverage certificates. Those votes were canvassed, with the results certified and reported to TABC and the Secretary of State in mid-November. TABC accepts applications only after they’ve been certified by the city and county.

A lawsuit has been filed to contest the election, but an injunction has not been ordered, so TABC has begun issuing licenses.

At issue is whether the election is valid. The election in the 1950s that turned parts of Dallas dry were Justice of the Peace district elections. The repeal was citywide. Under Texas law, only a JP district election can repeal a previous JP district election.

About 10 restaurants have liquor licenses pending. Bishop Arts District could be one of the biggest winners if the election is upheld.

—  David Taffet

City drops charges stemming from Rainbow Lounge raid in July 2009

Man who suffered brain injury in raid had been facing public intoxication, misdemeanor assault charges

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth City Attorney’s office announced last week that it had dropped all charges against Chad Gibson and other individuals arrested in the June 28, 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge.

Gibson was hospitalized for a head injury he incurred during the raid, although questions remain about whether Gibson was injured when an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission slammed him against a wall in the club and then threw him to the floor, or when Gibson fell on the sidewalk outside while he was handcuffed.

Gibson was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication and misdemeanor assault on a law enforcement officer after TABC Agent Chris Aller said Gibson groped him while he was attempting to arrest Gibson.

However, Aller and the second TABC agent involved in the raid, as well as their supervising sergeant, were fired after TABC officials conducted an internal investigation and determined that the agents should not have raided the bar in the first place.

An internal investigation conducted by the Fort Worth Police Department also indicated that FWPD officers involved in the raid had violated procedures, and three officers were suspended for a total of five days as a result.

A second Rainbow Lounge patron, George Armstrong, said he suffered severe bruising and a muscle strain when police arrested him. He was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication.

Adam Seidel, attorney for both Gibson and Armstrong, said he had received a notice from the court in the first part of last week that Gibson’s case had been set for jury trial on Dec. 7. Shortly afterward, however, he was notified by the court clerk that the charges had been dismissed.

“I am glad they did the right thing and dropped their charges against these two victims. It shows a commitment to move forward,” Seidel said.

City officials issued a statement Friday afternoon, Nov. 19, saying that Class C misdemeanor charges stemming from the Rainbow Lounge raid against Dylan Brown and Jose Macias, as well as Gibson and Armstrong, had been dropped, but declined to comment further.

According to the statement, the charges that have been dismissed were public intoxication charges against Jose A. Macias, Dylan T. Brown, Armstrong and Gibson. A charge of assault by contact against Gibson was also dropped.

Gibson suffered bleeding in his brain and is still receiving treatment for his injuries, according to Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth.

FFW was formed in the wake of the raid initially to help witnesses give testimony for both FWPD’s and TABC’s internal investigations. The organization has since become more formally organized and has been directly involved in negotiations with city officials that played a role in the vote to add protections for transgenders to the city’s nondiscrimination policy and in the recent vote to offer partner benefits to the city’s LGBT employees.

Anable said Thursday, Nov. 18, that Fairness Fort Worth is pleased with the city’s decision to drop the charges against Gibson and Armstrong.

“I think they finally just realized that the facts of the case didn’t support the charges,” Anable said. “I think this is a real positive step forward. It’s a show of good faith as we continue to resolve the issues related to the incident at the Rainbow Lounge.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

BREAKING: Fort Worth city attorney drops charges against Rainbow Lounge patrons

This photo, taken by Chuck Potter inside Rainbow Lounge on June 28, 2009, is believed to show TABC agents arresting Chad Gibson

A spokesman in the office of Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief has just confirmed reports we received earlier this morning that the city attorney’s office has dropped all charges against Chad Gibson and George Armstrong in connection with the June 28, 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge.

The spokesman said the city would release a statement later this afternoon, so watch Instant Tea for updates.

Gibson was hospitalized for a head injury he incurred during the raid, although questions remain about whether Gibson was injured when an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission slammed him against a wall in the club and then threw him to the floor, or when Gibson fell on the sidewalk outside while he was handcuffed.

Armstrong, who said he suffered severe bruising and a muscle strain when police arrested him, was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication.

Gibson was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication and misdemeanor assault on a law enforcement officer after TABC Agent Chris Aller said Gibson groped him while he was attempting to arrest Gibson. However, Aller and the second TABC agent involved in the raid, as well as their supervising sergeant, were fired after TABC officials conducted an internal investigation and determined that the agents should not have raided the bar in the first place.

An internal investigation conducted by the Fort Worth Police Department also indicated that FWPD officers involved in the raid had violated procedures, and three officers were suspended for a total of five days as a result.

Adam Seidel, attorney for both Gibson and Armstrong, said he had received a notice from the court earlier this week that Gibson’s case had been set for jury trial on Dec. 7. Shortly afterward, however, he was notified by the court clerk that the charges had been dismissed.

“I am glad they did the right thing and dropped their charges against these two victims. It shows a commitment to move forward,” Seidel said.

Gibson suffered bleeding in his brain and is still receiving treatment for his injuries, according to Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth.

FFW was formed in the wake of the raid initially to help witnesses give testimony for both FWPD’s and TABC’s internal investigations. The organization has since become more formally organized and has been directly involved in negotiations with city officials that played a role in the vote to add protections for transgenders to the city’s nondiscrimination policy and in the recent vote to offer partner benefits to the city’s LGBT employees.

Anable said Thursday that Fairness Fort Worth is pleased with the city’s decision to drop the charges against Gibson and Armstrong.

“I think they finally just realized that the facts of the case didn’t support the charges,” Anable said. “I think this is a real positive step forward. It’s a show of good faith as we continue to resolve the issues related to the incident at the Rainbow Lounge.”

—  admin

‘Out of the Ashes’ art show benefits Rainbow Lounge doc

Art does a movie good

Local artists are turning their work and attention to helping filmmaker Robert Camina realize his documentary and thus comes Out of the Ashes. This art show not only helps raise funds for Camina to keep working on the film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, but also supports local art. Seriously, this sounds like a total win-win situation.

DEETS: 2814 Canton St. 7 p.m. Free. CaminaEntertainment.com

Your favorite local artists come together for a fundraiser benefiting the production fund for the documentary film, “Raid of the Rainbow Lounge”. (view the teaser trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCQkJwyoRNs)

Located in a beautiful 2,000 sq ft gallery in Deep Ellum, the event is free to the public. (see pictures)

Please join us for this night of art, music and drinks!

Fort Worth and Dallas artists come together in this fundraiser benefiting the production fund for the upcoming documentary film, Raid of the Rainbow Lounge.

The event will be held in a beautiful, 2000 square ft gallery in Deep Ellum located at 2814 Canton Street, Dallas, TX 75226 on Friday, October 15, 7pm-10pm.

Come support these local artists as they support the production of this film!!!!

Donations will also be accepted. Supporters of the film who are unable to attend can also donate through Paypal available at www.caminaentertainment.com.

For more information: http://www.caminaentertainment.com/Site/Out_of_the_ashes.html

SEE COMMERCIAL AT: http://animoto.com/play/n3eiR4JLaAr34sXSYxPkMQ

Thank you to Robb Conover and Brian Long for helping coordinate this event!

Official event poster art by local artist, Aaron Rathbun!

More details:

It’s hard to believe that was just over a year ago, that officers from the Fort Worth Police Department and TABC raided the newly opened gay bar, the Rainbow Lounge, resulting in multiple arrests and serious injuries. However, while the uproar seemed at first to threaten to tear the city apart, many of those involved, including activists, city government officials, the police department and TABC, quickly stepped forward to insist that what started off as a “tragic incident” could evolve into a shining opportunity to address issues and make improvements that would benefit the LGBT community and the city as a whole. My latest film, the documentary, Raid of the Rainbow Lounge follows that roller-coaster of a journey, showcasing the good, the bad, the ugly and the controversial.

For the past 15 months I have been working feverishly on this documentary, reading through hundreds of pages of police reports and racking up nearly 80 hours of video footage. This includes 40 hours of interviews by witnesses, activists and city leaders. The documentary is a testament to the dedication and hard word of a community and government officials on city and state levels, to create an improved understanding, a more inclusive place to live, and a stronger community for all.

I truly believe in the necessity of this film and hope you do too. That being said, I need your help. The project was not awarded the cash grants needed to produce the film, and cash donations are no longer coming in. The future of the film is truly in jeopardy, There are some major expenses vital to this production that I am struggling to cover. (For example, news interviews of the young man who was in the ICU and the fired TABC agents cost $25/second to license.) Without more funding, the film could go uncompleted. So please join us October 15th to support this film and your favorite DFW artists.

To donate directly, please click on the PayPal link on the film’s website:
http://www.caminaentertainment.com/Site/Raid_of_the_Rainbow_Lounge.html

Thank you!
Robert

—  Rich Lopez

Did the Rainbow Lounge raid prompt TABC to stop arresting people for public intoxication?

In fiscal year 2009, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents made 761 arrests for public intoxication — a figure that includes a few high-profile ones you may have heard about at the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth.

In fiscal year 2010, which began one month after the Rainbow Lounge raid, TABC has made just 81 arrests for public intoxication, The Austin American-Statesman reported over the weekend.

Based on these numbers, one might deduce that the highly controversial raid — which resulted in three agents being fired — also prompted TABC to abruptly change its enforcement practices. But according to the agency, this is only partly true.

TABC officials say the changes really began in fiscal year 2007, two years before the raid. Consider that in fiscal year 2006, TABC agents made a whopping 3,100 public intoxication arrests.

But in response to a long series of controversies — the Rainbow Lounge raid being just one of the latest — TABC began shifting its focus from petty criminal enforcement back to its mandate of regulating the businesses that sell alcohol.

Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for TABC who also now serves as its liaison to the LGBT community, told Instant Tea on Monday that’s it’s “impossible to calculate” how much of a factor the Rainbow Lounge raid has been.

“If you look at the decreasing numbers of criminal citations issued by our agents, and the increasing number of hours spent on investigations, it’s clear that we have been moving in this direction since FY 2007,” Beck said. “But you can also see a significant jump forward this fiscal year which started 9/1/09. It’s impossible to calculate how much of that push was in response to the Rainbow Lounge, but certainly incidents like the Rainbow Lounge and the shooting in Austin resulted in our agency direction changing at a faster pace.”

—  John Wright

Illusions is now closed, and owner Eddie Bonner is still blaming the city of Dallas’ smoking ban

Patrons inside Illusions before the city’s new smoking ban took effect in 2009. (Dallas Voice)

Illusions on Maple Avenue closed Thursday, July 15 after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended the bar’s liquor license for failure to pay taxes on mixed-beverage receipts.

Illusions owner Eddie Bonner told me Tuesday afternoon he’s in the process of selling the six-year-old bar. But he said the buyer has been delayed in obtaining a liquor license from TABC.

Bonner said he wanted to keep the bar open until the new owner could take over but wasn’t able to do so. He said he planned to use proceeds from the sale of equipment to pay off his taxes.

Bonner has made news over the last few years for his strong opposition to Dallas’ new smoking ordinance, which he claimed had reduced his business by about 40 percent.

“I’m not going to sit here and say that’s the only factor, but it was probably the biggest contributing factor,” Bonner said, adding that he also has a full-time job and is working on his doctorate. “We’ve raised probably over $150,000 for charities, and I’ve made a lot of good friends, but the business side of it, with everything else I have going on in my personal life, it’s too much responsibility.”

Illusions is the second gay or lesbian bar to close in the last month on Maple Avenue.

DV staffer Rich Lopez reports that Sisters, which replaced Buddies II last year, closed its doors about two weeks ago. Rumor has it that Sisters was shut down due to “flooding issues,” but phone calls to owner Kevin Barnett haven’t been returned.

—  John Wright

Filmmaker Robert Camina releases trailer for documentary on Rainbow Lounge raid

On June 28, 2009, within hours of a raid by Fort Worth police officers and agents with the TABC on the newly opened Rainbow Lounge gay bar, local filmmaker Robert L. Camina was at the bar with his camera, talking to people who had witnessed the event and capturing footage of the two protest rallies — one outside the bar and one in front of the Tarrant County Courthouse.

The North Texas LGBT community — indeed, the LGBT community across the country — reacted swiftly and angrily, demanding accountability from TABC and FWPD. LGBT people and their supporters packed the next Fort Worth City Council meeting, demanding a response. And Camina was there with his camera.

Today, on the one-year anniversary of the raid, Camina has released a trailer for his documentary, “Raid of the Rainbow Lounge,” a work in progress that, Camina says, “follows the rollercoaster of a journey, showcasing the good, the bad, the ugly and the controversial.”

The trailer for the documentary is below, and you can go here to Camina’s website for more information.

—  admin

TABC employees in Dallas, Fort Worth conduct food drive for Resource Center pantry

TABC.food.pantry

Carolyn Beck, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s newly appointed liaison to the LGBT communiity, sends along word that TABC employees recently dropped off $300 to $400 worth of food, shown above, at Resource Center Dalllas’ food pantry for people with HIV/AIDS. The food was collected at TABC’s Dallas and Fort Worth offices, and the holiday drive was organized by Agent Staci Ducote, TABC’s community relations liaison for North Texas.

—  John Wright