Pint House vows zero tolerance for anti-gay slurs

From the June 20, 2013 edition

After the Pint House opened in the Short North earlier this year, many local members of the LGBT community addressed on Facebook rumors that some Pint House clientele had shouted anti-gay slurs at people walking by. The tension that conversation created is part of what helped motivate last week’s Pink movement.

The owner of Union, Rajesh Lahoti, said some customers have complained about anti-gay slurs being yelled by customers from the Pint House. Action by Pint House to remove the guests who said these things were not being taken, Lahoti said, until the public reacted so negatively on Facebook and other social media.

“In 17 years [of owning a business in the Short North] I have never seen people feel comfortable yelling derogatory things out of a business window at someone,” Lahoti said. “I’m not speaking to you as a business owner; I’m speaking to you as an activist. That’s what Pink was about. What we want to see is the example that Mikey’s Late Night Slice [had set where a customer was refused service for hate speech]. Let’s just get the change done and move forward.”

Chris Corso, who co-owns Pint House and is part of the group that owns the Park Street Complex, a series of bars in the Arena District, said he indeed has heard complaints about homophobic things said by Pint House guests although he has not seen it happen personally. The staff of all his bars, he said, are trained to not tolerate any hate speech.

“Anyone shouting out hate-based slurs or behaving in an aggressive manner will be exited and banned,” he said. “In my experience anytime you have a successful new venue open it will take a few months for a certain crowd to understand they are in the wrong place and typically they do not come back.”

Steven Dunn, also known as drag queen Alexis Stevens who performs at Axis and Union, said he has been called names while walking in drag by the Pint House and has friends who report the same.

“It worries me because I feel like we’re losing the security we’ve always had in this particular neighborhood,” Dunn said.

Colin Cunningham, manager of the Pint House, said the bar added extra security a few weeks ago after reports of hate speech were made on social media.

“I would take it personally if I heard remarks like that made by customers, not just because I’m gay, but because I take the community seriously and the establishment seriously,” Cunningham said.

Dunn added that part of what incited him and others to have this conversation is because Corso didn’t sign off to let Pride happen in Goodale Park in 2011 and 2012 even though he did for other Goodale Park festivals. Dunn said that it’s suspicious that Corso signed off on Pride this year, the same year his company is resurrecting the famous downtown gay bar Garage. Garage opens this Saturday.

“Really it seems now that he’s just trying to make a profit off the LGBTQ community,” Dunn said.

Corso didn’t sign the permit for Pride in 2011, he said, because of a “dumb disagreement on my end over the placement of the porta toilets. … Last year we wanted to be part of the event but Stonewall rightfully assumed we wouldn’t sign off. We have since met with Stonewall and put all of that behind us.”