Doughnut vendor ruffles feathers displaying pride banner
by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
For 23 years, Barbara Elza has been serving up warm donuts at Seattle's biggest, busiest tourist spot, Pike Place Market. Her business, the Daily Dozen Donut Company, caters to locals and visitors alike, as well to as other market vendors who open in the early morning. A few years ago, Elza and her partner of 27 years, Lucinda, decided to display a rainbow flag behind their counter - and thus ran afoul of the stringent historical charters that govern the market. After being granted permission to hang the flag each June for Pride month, this year Elza refused to take it down.
Elza says she first put the flag up just a little over three years ago, intending to keep it up for the month of June, Pride month. About a week later, she got a call from her landlord, who asked her to take it down. The Stranger caught wind of the incident, and soon the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) was flooded with phone calls from outraged readers. As a result, the flag stayed up.
Two years ago, she again put the flag up for the month of June, and she did so this year as well. But this year, when July rolled around, she says, she just 'couldn't take it down.'
'There's nothing inside me that would let me take it down,' Elza told SGN.
In August, her landlord gave her a call to ask what was up. Elza said her landlord has 'no problem' with the flag, but the decision really isn't in his hands because he has regulations he must follow. Elza told him she'd give the matter some thought.
'But my only thought was, What am I going to do when I refuse? What about my employees? I have a responsibility to provide them with employment.'
While the PDA hasn't threatened to evict her, Elza doesn't discount the possibility, because she has no intention whatsoever of taking the flag down - ever again.
'The Pride flag at Daily Dozen Doughnuts had received temporary approval. That was great. We granted that approval,' Kelly Lindsay, the PDA's director of marketing and programs, told SGN. 'But now it's the end of October and it's been hanging long past the expiration of the approval.'
WHY KEEP IT UP?
The campaign here in Washington for same-sex marriage has no doubt been a motivating factor in Elza's decision, but three years of flying the Pride flag in Seattle's most popular tourist destination has taught her some things.
'We're the number-one tourist destination in the city,' said Elza. 'And my corridor is a busy, packed corridor.'
Elza told SGN that time and time again, she'll see a family on vacation walking through the market with a bored-looking teenager in tow, and the teen will stop and look at the flag. Not say a word, just look at that flag, look at their family, and then look at her. In instances like this, words are seldom exchanged.
'They would just look at it and I knew. They don't have to say anything,' said Elza. 'Just seeing that flag, they know it's going to get better.'
There are plenty of other visitors, however, who do stop and talk to her about the flag, like during Fleet Week. Since she's been raising the flag, Elza says, groups of sailors in their whites have come in to get doughnuts and talk to her because they found the flag friendly, both before and after the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell.'
Elza said the flag makes her business an 'information booth' for the many LGBT tourists who come through the city looking for bars and other Gay-friendly business. Elza gives them directions to the Hill or sends them to the newsstand just down the hallway, where SGN sells for a quarter.
'Taking it down causes injury,' says Elza.
That injury would take various forms - fewer rural LGBT teens finding positive reinforcement about who they are; less visibility for the current Approve R-74 campaign for marriage equality and for future LGBT community endeavors; fewer tourist dollars going into Seattle's LGBT economy - all these things are real to Elza.
ADHERING TO THE REGS
According to Elza, the market is protected by 'historical charters.' Each vendor is required by their lease to comply with certain regulations aimed at keeping the market looking and feeling historic. One of those regulations involves personal politics.
'There are very specific guidelines about what can and can't be hung,' said the PDA's Lindsay.
Kent de Vigné, a dentist located upstairs from the Daily Dozen, says he can't remember any specific instance in which a vendor has been asked to take something down. Most vendors, he said, seem to understand the regulations and follow them without any problem. It is understood that Pike Place Market is a historic tourist location where personal politics (campaign signs, etc.) aren't allowed.
But what is the rainbow flag? Is it a political statement? Sure, but it's also much more than that. Is the flag of 'historical' significance? Ask Sylvia Rivera. Is it of local significance? Absolutely. Is it of historical significance to Pike Place Market? This is the question both Elza and the PDA want answered.
Elza worked with the PDA and its governing body, the Pike Place Market Historical Commission, to get the flag permitted for the month of June each year. After the Stranger story broke, she went back to the board to make her case for keeping it up, and there was little resistance. It's exactly what she intends to do again.
'There is no malice, no discrimination, intended in any part of the conversation. We love the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company,' Lindsay told SGN. 'Even though the temporary approval for hanging the flag has long passed, we told her if she did want to keep the flag past the election, that would be fine.'
'I can't speak for the historic commission or what they [will] do,' said Lindsay. 'But [Elza's] submitted the paperwork.'
Elza is ready to go in front of the historical commission and is hoping to do so within the next two weeks. De Vigné, a member of the GSBA, says he's got her back.
'The whole market is built on diversity,' said de Vigné. 'You walk through the market and you hear all different languages. The flag is part of that diversity.'
Elza thinks the reason she's being asked to take it down is because of a particular business owner not far from her, who she believes is a 'Tea Party member.' Her flag isn't just a standard rainbow flag - it's an American flag with rainbow stripes on it, and she suspects this is why her fellow tenant might be agitated. She also thinks the same owner raised the issue three years ago. Lindsay, however, says she hasn't gotten any complaints from other vendors.
'I'm a patriot, I love my country. I want to get married in my country. I've been with Lucinda for 27 years. We can't even file a joint tax return,' Elza told SGN. 'The people who judge me have not gone a day without their civil rights.'
While Lindsay doesn't know exactly how the case will go, there are people on the PDA as well as many other vendors, who support Elza in her endeavor.
'The market has an incredible amount of diversity,' Elza told SGN. 'I want them to realize this is just another part of that diversity.'
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!