by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
The organizers of Grays Harbor Pride are proud of the work they do each year, to promote awareness of the LGBTQ community, foster good relations with allies, and they are particularly proud of the message they send to the youth about community, love and acceptance. What started out as a crazy idea (would anyone support an LGBTQ Pride Festival in the area?) has turned into one of the area's most anticipated and celebrated events. Local business owners, elected officials, and more than a few hundred residents support and attend the LGBTQ-focused events that include everything from drag shows to marches.
On August 19, Grays Harbor Pride Festival observed its 4th year in existence. More people than ever attended several events that had been scheduled over the weekend and the feeling that the residents of Hoquiam, Washington and the surrounding towns, truly were 'proud' of the LGBTQ community that has, as of the last few years, become increasingly more visible, emboldened and, by most estimates, respected and recognized as a permanent part of the people that make up the LGBTQ and allied communities in the area.
With all that positive energy flowing it is hard to believe that hate could make its way into the festival. But according to several leaders in the Grays Harbor LGBTQ and Allied communities, hate has most definitely been on display and all signs point to one business: The Black Pearl Tavern in Hoquiam.
The Black Pearl Tavern's owners are under fire for allegedly making threats towards members of the LGBTQ community - going so far as to say that if they came to the bar on certain nights they would 'leave in body bags' - purposefully closing their doors during the Sunday Pride Festival so they wouldn't have to serve any LGBTQ folks and so much more. Just take a look at the Yelp page for the business and you will see just how bad things have become between the Pearl and the community: https://www.yelp.com/biz/cappy-ricks-black-pearl-tavern-hoquiam. There, you will find screen shots from Facebook conversations between members of the LGBTQ community and the owners, in which they hurl insults at anyone who dare give them a bad review, question them about the accusations that they tried and failed to get a permit from the City of Hoquiam to protest the Pride festival, and more. It makes for some interesting reading, but I warn you, if you are easily offended steer clear of that mess.
To be clear, it is obvious that there is a problem at The Black Pearl Tavern and the rhetoric and threats that have been hurled at members of the LGBTQ community in Grays Harbor need to be taken seriously by everyone in the area - including law enforcement and local government.
'Hatred in Hoquiam will NOT be tolerated,' Ceasar Hart, longtime LGBTQ activist and leader in the Grays Harbor LGBTQ community told Seattle Gay News. 'Grays Harbor Pride was a truly amazing event and a great display of love and acceptance. However, there was a dark side to it that happened in the evening during the Drag Show at the 7th Street Theatre on Pride Sunday.'
Hart told SGN that The Black Pearl Tavern, which is located across the street from where one of the biggest celebrations for Pride weekend took place, closed their doors because, as Hart says the owner was quoted as saying, 'they don't serve fags.'
According to several witnesses that spoke to SGN (many who did not want to be mentioned by name out of fear of what could happen to them if they spoke out) the owner who calls himself Captain Johnny also threatened bodily harm and stated LGBTQ people who entered would 'leave in body bags.'
Upon hearing about this, both LGBTQ and our Allies took to social media to warn people to stay safe and to not go to The Black Pearl Tavern.
What happened next is classic anti-LGBTQ hate coming from people who have no issue with saying it publicly for all the world to see. The business began to reply to anyone who left a bad review or spoke out against the tavern by personally attacking them.
Mary Hoover, a straight ally, says she was called an 'ugly fat c*nt.'
Hoover, whose son programs the music for Ceasar Hart's wildly popular once-per-month drag show, 'Small Town, Big Harts,' says she is appalled by their remarks and for threatening people.
Hoover also told SGN she is equally disgusted by the actions of the business owners as they tried to obtain a permit to have an anti-LGBTQ rally for Pride weekend.
The City of Hoquiam officially denied the permit because they waited too late to file for one; however, as Hart points out, 'There isn't any evidence they would've been granted a permit anyway because of the support that we have received from the City on this issue.'
'I spoke with Hoquiam Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff and she too is disgusted by the behavior,' Hart told SGN. 'She is a true LGBTQ ally and will not stand by this behavior in her town.'
Hart also says that individuals were asked to file reports to the police of what was witnessed and, according to Hart, they received over 400 phone calls from LGBTQ and Allied folks alike.
It is important to note, however, that there is no known active investigation of The Black Pearl Tavern.
After facing such a sharp backlash and ignorantly posting anti-LGBTQ Facebook rants, the owners of the Tavern deleted its Facebook account.
Although nothing is set in stone at the moment, Hart says that he (Ceasar Hart is a Drag King) says he will organize a rally to 'protest against the discriminatory actions of this business.'
Sadly, Miki Cabell, Clinical Supervisor PCAP at Children's Advocacy Center of Grays Harbor and Executive Director at Out & Proud Grays Harbor Coalition, says she was not surprised by the actions of the ownership at The Black Pearl Tavern.
According to Cabell, she attended a sit-in at the tavern because a member of the Transgender community, who declined to be named or gendered for this report, claimed they were treated badly by the establishment. So Cabell and a handful of others went to the tavern in April to order some drinks, have some food and be out and visible as LGBTQ people. Cabell tells SGN that nothing out of the ordinary happened at first and they were treated better than maybe they had expected.
After some time had passed and they had finished with their order of drinks, she says she walked up to who she thought was just a bartender - turns out it was the owner - and thanked him for providing the drinks and atmosphere and for hosting them.
That's when things went wrong claims Cabell.
'He looked right at me and said, 'That's fine, but just don't come in here on Saturday like that or you'll get killed,' said Cabell.
Stunned, she said, 'Excuse me, am I to understand that you mean that you will kill me for being LGBTQ and he tried to backtrack a bit but said something equally as horrifying. He said, 'The bikers and the vets' would kill us.'
The irony of the situation is Cabell had a vet with her that night and, in fact, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in Grays Harbor that doesn't know someone serving or who has served in the U.S. military. These threats, Cabell says, she knew were from him and not the so-called 'biker and vet' crowd.
She explained to him that as a business owner (let alone a person) he shouldn't be saying these things and the conversation between the owner and the sit-in folks turned bad and they left.
When news of this was made public last month, one of the owners, Josie F. wrote in a statement, 'No matter what gender, race or sexual orientation you are, at The Black Pearl Tavern, act less than appropriate and get asked to leave. When you come back with 14 people and stick a dildo on the counter, bully and harass the establishment, you will never be allowed back. Period. The LGBTQ community has fought hard for their rights and to bully is absolutely not OK for anyone. After moving to Hoquiam this was the second bar I had been to. The Black Pearl is the oldest building in Hoquiam and has some amazing history. Try this great establishment for yourself and don't believe the rumors. I have seen many people kicked out of this bar for unruly behavior.'
Fast forward to Sunday night, Pride Sunday at Grays Harbor, and according to several witnesses, The Black Pearl owner came flying out of his front door slamming things and making noise, visibly pissed off about the drag show happening at the 7th Street Theatre nearby.
'He made some claims of having to throw a woman out because she smelled fishy and other things, just really, you know, going crazy,' Cabell told SGN. 'Several people saw this. Then he mentioned that if any of us decided to go into his tavern we would be killed or leave in body bags.'
'That is just too far,' she said. 'I was like, 'Whoa ... this is really scary. This is getting to be too much.'
The owner of The Black Pearl Tavern then closed his establishment down for the rest of the night and people began to ask around to find out what the issue was. Luckily, the Grays Harbor community is standing behind the LGBTQ community and many people - many allies - have reached out to express their anger over what has transpired. They were attacked, too.
The owner of the Simpson Avenue Bar And Grill, Shelly Dixon, stood up to the bigotry and in return was called a Lesbian - although she is married to a man and identifies as straight so that would be news to her. Ceasar's once-per-month show is presented at the Simpson Avenue Bar And Grill.
Drew Paradisco, Seattle Drag Queen and LGBTQ rights advocate has been a longtime supporter of Ceasar Hart's work in Grays Harbor and was there, as she has been in the past, to support and perform at the drag show. After hearing about the incident she reached out to the owners of The Black Pearl Tavern and was told, 'Go suck a cock, you worthless leech.'
At this point it is unclear what the next steps will be. Ceasar Hart says he is organizing and he has help from the community. The police have been notified and so has local government. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. But one thing is for sure, the LGBTQ or any community for that matter, cannot take lightly when threats are made such as 'you will leave in body bags.' Not after Orlando. Not after Matthew Shepard. Not after The Upstairs Lounge arson fire. Throughout our history, people who make threats towards our community sometimes make good on them.
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