By Johnny Trlica
The biggest story of the past two weeks is, by far, Hurricane Harvey, and the most read column at Houston Rainbow Herald involves the aftermath of the storm of the century. If you read any bar’s Facebook post informing you that they were open for business and it included a reference to only coming out if it were safe to do so, it may be because of the squall this of this HRH story.
Gay bars open during Hurricane Harvey: Providing a service or making a buck?
(This story has been updated and edited for space constraints.)
A minor brouhaha broke out over a couple of Facebook posts on Sunday during the height of Hurricane Harvey. “TC’s is OPEN! Happy Hour all day/all night! See you soon!” was written by Bradley Bynum, a bartender at TC’s. Judging by several people’s reactions, one would think he was asking them to throw caution to the wind, swim across Buffalo Bayou and risk their lives for a cocktail.
A short while later, the forever-vocal Lana Blake wrote, “If a bar or an entertainer is promoting their business, they are just doing their job! If you are unable to get out safely during the storm, then stay put! Judging businesses for doing business is ridiculous! Lots of snarky people on Facebook today!” When her original post began taking on flak, she added, “What is your problem? No one asked anyone to risk their lives for a drink. We’re just doing what we’ve always do…PROMOTING OUR BUSINESS!!!”
Was it all right to be promoting coming out to a bar during a disaster? Several people did not think so.
Robert Kory Shipman wrote, “My only concern about this would be encouraging people to get out in this weather and put themselves at personal risk. As a business owner, regardless of my
ability to open, I would not encourage others to come…IMHO.” He also posted, “People are dying, three so far from high water. So no, I wouldn’t ask people to come out to my business. Again, this is what course of action I would (or wouldn’t, actually) take. I am not judging others.”
Robin L Schofield-wade chimed in by posting, “WHY they are asking people to stay off the streets [let’s] put drunk people on the streets.” She later added, “Maybe if your business was open offering to help people who have lost everything who have no food or water or were helping feed 1st responders but to ask people to come out for a drink? Or you trying to justify being out since the Mayor has asked people not to. Just my option I think any business who ask their employees to risk their lives is ridiculous!”
Most people seemed to look at the issue from a personal responsibility approach. Kris Smith wrote, “I fully agree. An adult should take responsibility for their actions in full. No one forced them out of their house onto that bar stool. And it’s not up to a bar owner to babysit all of the patrons when he/she still has to make money. Adults these days have no idea how to be an adult. No one wants to be responsible for their own fuck ups. Pretty sure we all know when it is safe and when it isn’t for ourselves. If you need help understanding that, I hope you become educated by the next flood.”
Bradley Bynum added to his original post, explaining that TC’s is a neighborhood bar and was not asking anyone to risk their life to come buy a vodka from him. He wrote, “I posted this to let the people that live nearby know that we are open instead of sitting around at home doing nothing. I didn’t ask anyone to put their life in danger. Use your common sense, if you can’t get here, don’t come, it doesn’t bother me.”
Grey Stephens, owner of TC’s and Crocker stepped in to douse the flames. He issued a statement via Facebook which reads, “Yes we opened today with volunteer employees that live in the neighborhood and ONLY AFTER I personally drove the neighborhood to check streets, and found them to be very passable even on foot. This was not an attempt to just sell drinks, but to allow people in the neighborhood, who have lost a dry home, electricity, AC, and those without food, to have a cool place to get to, even if only for a brief moment, to escape the storm. I have spent hours looking for a restaurant that was open in hopes to buy a couple dozen pizzas or burgers just to help people around here. But with no luck so far. If it is safe, and you need a place to hide, join us. Buy a drink or don’t buy a drink. I don’t care. Today is not about doing business. Today is about being safe. DO NOT ATTEMPT to come if it’s not safe for you to do so. I’m still working on the food issue. We obviously will do what we have to do when it comes to being safe for you and us both.”
Were TC’s, Crocker, JR’s and other bars wrong for being open during the aftermath of the storm? Not if you know just a little bit of gay history. Gay bars have always been a refuge for its clientele, often being the only family its patrons have. And who do people want to be with in a
time of crisis? Family.
For the latest LGBTQ news and current events in 2017, click on HoustonRainbowHerald.com. Johnny Trlica is the editor of the HoustonRainbowHerald.com, the Bayou City’s only daily LGBT internet newspaper. Contact him at email@example.com.