A Chicago gay bar facing backlash over a rap ban has apologized and promised to continue playing a diversity of music.
Progress Bar faced immediate pushback after announcing DJs would be prohibited from playing rap music. “This is not a suggestion!! If you play RAP you will not be asked back,” read an email sent by the club and leaked to Block Club Chicago.
Club-goers labeled the move as racist, and Progress Bar initially released a statement Wednesday stating they would still be “changing their sound.”
A day later, management ended up changing its tune.
Owner Justin Romme issued an open letter to patrons, neighbors, and the wide LGBTQ community apologizing for the move.
“The email issued [Wednesday] did not reflect the values of Progress Bar,” Romme wrote. “The content was unwelcoming and hurtful, and in retrospect, it should have never been written or sent. We seek to be a trusted member of the LGBTQ+ community and in the City of Chicago as a welcoming place for every person no matter their race, creed or sexual orientation. We sincerely apologize to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community and across Chicago for the hurt this message caused.”
The backlash triggered an onslaught of negative reviews on multiple social media platforms.
“Absolutely terrible! Racist af, rude staff, terrible,” reads the top review on Facebook as on Friday morning.
The backlash prompted Romme to close the bar on Thursday “so we can begin working to heal the pain.”
“When we reopen, we will do so with a renewed commitment to create a space whose patronage, atmosphere, and — yes — music reflects the diversity of our community,” Romme wrote.
That’s a shift from the email advising a no rap rule “effective immediately” sent out earlier in the week. Then, management said the club would a “super open format POP/DANCE focused atmosphere” with music more akin to a KISS FM affiliate than to urban radio station WGCI-FM.
“Anything vulgar, aggressive or considered mumble rap (including certain Cardi B tracks and newer Nikki Minaj) is off limits,” the original email satted. “If you are unsure if a song qualified, assume it does and choose something else… If someone is pressuring you for a song just let them know it's the new rule. There will be added security there to help with this transition and one specifically posted next to the DJ booth.”
Drag performer Quinn Hagerty has been among the most high-profile critics of the move, posting the email on Facebook and writing, “are you just gonna come out and say black people aren’t welcome in your establishment?”