Icandy, a popular gay bar in Philadelphia, is being protested by activists after video surfaced of its owner referring to its black patrons using the n word.
During a brief, 21-second exchange filmed three years ago, proprietor Darryl DePiano is overheard conversing with another man; neither is shown on camera. The owner can plainly be heard saying, “Only [n word] ask for drink passes.”
“[N word], everyone of them,” one of the men comments, laughing “Does Ray ask you for drink passes — white, obnoxious white, but white?”
“No, he’s never asked me,” a second man responds.
“There you go, and he was definitely your real boyfriend,” the first replies. “All three of them that ask you for drink passes are [n word].”
In a Facebook post, DePiano admitted to being one of the voices caught on tape.
“Although I acknowledge that this type of language and action are never acceptable, it truly does not reflect my true feelings,” he wrote. “It is never ever, ever OK to refer to anyone in this manner, but I did make this comment, and I have grown since then to be understanding and respectful to each and every individual.”
“I am so sorry for my stupid and offensive actions,” DePiano added.
That apology may not be enough to quell protests from black and brown activists, who have demonstrated against what they claim is a history of racist activity in Philadelphia’s LGBT community.
The video, which was posted on Medium, first surfaced in the comments section of an article posted to Philadelphia Magazine on the recent boycott of Icandy and Woody’s. The latter, which is arguably the city’s most popular gay bar, has been criticized for its dress code, which bans patrons from wearing Timberland shoes to the club.
Given the shoes’ popularity with people of color, activists have argued that the prohibition amounts to “covert racism.”
Woody’s, however, has claimed that there was no such rule in place. Jeff Sheehan, a manager at the local watering hole, told Philadelphia Gay News that the incident arose from a “miscommunication” between management and house staff.
“There are no brand-specific bans at all,” he said. “The dress code is clean, neat, and casual.”
Thursday night, organizers from the Black & Brown Workers Collective gathered in front of Icandy to protest the recent incidents, which are being investigated by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and the Office of LGBT Affairs.
Calling the events “offensive and appalling,” the government body will hold a meeting October 25 to determine if the reports constitute racial bias.
“Consistent with our authority, we are holding a public hearing to provide members of the LGBTQ community a forum to speak about their experiences with racism and discrimination in the community," Rue Landau, executive director of the commission, said in a statement. “The commission will gather information on bias incidents and discriminatory practices and make necessary recommendations for improved race relations in the LGBTQ community.”
In the meantime, many have already vowed to take their business elsewhere.
“It makes me sick,” Daniel Hart told Philadelphia Magazine. Hart is a drag artist who has performed at Icandy. “I am never setting a foot in there again. I hope my friends who host shows there reconsider their venue. The gayborhood is totally not a safe space and it depresses me consistently.”