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Soul Searching in L.A. Bar Industry After Proud Boys Incursions on Eastside

11:06 AM PDT on July 18, 2018

the griffin facebook

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]os Angeles bar owners and managers have spent the past few days soul-searching and coming to terms with a new dynamic in the city’s nightlife scene. Proud Boys, a "social club" with extremist views about women and immigration, got into a heated altercation with a group of local activists at the Griffin in Atwater Village on Saturday night.

RELATED: Proud Boys Gathering at Atwater Bar Draws Protests, Police, Possible 'Mom'

The incident led to outrage in socially conscious L.A.’s nightlife scene, with many people blaming the Griffin for allowing the group to enter the bar in the first place. The backlash sparked the Griffin to announce a neighborhood benefit starting at 9 p.m. to close Wednesday, with the proceeds going to “local Atwater Village charities as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Via The Griffin Facebook

The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the Proud Boys, a self-described “western chauvinist” men’s club, as a hate group. The Proud Boys have been known to wear red “Make America Great Again” hats and black polo shirts trimmed in yellow stripes.

The Griffin said via Facebook that they will be posting signage throughout the bar reflecting a policy of  “No sexism, no racism, no ableism, no ageism, no homophobia, no fatphobia, no transphobia, no hatefulness.”

At Footsies Bar, not far from the Griffin in Cypress Park, general manager Cassandra Simon told L.A. Taco on Wednesday that no far-right groups are allowed there. "We have been discussing what our policy is if this sort of meet up happens here and they are simply not welcomed and will be not served. That is a given," Simon said.

The key concern for Footsies is the safety of patrons, she said. The Proud Boys, Simon added, "are looking for attention."

Beer Belly in Koreatown told L.A. Taco they would never have allowed the faction to enter in the first place. “Hell no we don’t allow that kind of stuff,” the craft bar told L.A. Taco.  

Chris Day, an experienced bartender, told LAist, "I believe the owner and he didn't know what was going on, but his argument of killing them with kindness was incredibly weak and I don't really buy it at all ... it's not going to work."

A similar gathering of the Proud Boys happened in early June, when more than a dozen members of the far-right group organized a meeting at Highland Park Brewery’s Chinatown location.

A witness who was there and asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons told L.A. Taco, “They were there to be seen and to intimidate.”

RELATED: Hate Group Associated with White Supremacy and Misogyny Held a Meeting at Highland Park Brewery in Chinatown

The Proud Boys aren’t the only pro-Trump group that to invade public spaces. Lina Lecaro reported that a meet-up for the American Freedom Party was held last fall at Taix in Echo Park.

“I asked them how they could allow this to happen and they said that the group had reserved a banquet room, that they didn't know what the group's affiliation was as they do not ask parties such questions, of course. It's not like the AFP would straight up tell them that they were a white supremacist group, either,” activist Michelle Carr told Lecaro.

Josh Goldman, a bar consultant told told LAist the service industry needs to draw a distinct line with these types of groups: "It's like Patrick Swayze said in 'Roadhouse.' You're nice until it's time to not be nice," he told the site.

Many hip bars in L.A. have always drawn a line with certain POC groups, barring black and brown people who wear so called “gang attire.” Many bars don’t allow hats with logos or baggy jeans. Earlier this year, a New York judge ruled bars can ban MAGA hats. A bar in Chicago last month banned face tattoos and “Make America Great Again” hats.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with comment from Footsies Bar.

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