The “Fagots Stay Out!” sign was long gone, but the bad taste lingered. West Hollywood’s legendary rock hangout, Barney’s Beanery, had great buzz, but a lot of negative press based on their homophobic past. People said: “I would never step foot in that homophobic place!” and “You need to deal with your problem!” So we did. The solution: Exorcise the demons. We arranged for the new owner David Houston to sit down, in an event attended by the press, with the Reverend Troy Perry, a well-known gay rights leader who had led public protests at Barney’s during the 70s.
At these protests in the 1970s, Perry and many other gay activists picketed outside of the restaurant and halted business, demanding that the “Fagots Stay Out!” sign be taken down. Perry vowed he would never step foot in Barney’s again, unless it was to hear an apology.
When Perry entered Barney’s Beanery for the first time in 34 years, Houston, who had purchased the bar in 1999, had an apology prepared. “I’m sorry that it ever happened,” Houston told Perry. “I’m sorry if this name is associated with any sort of pain in the community. I hope everyone will be as open-minded as the reverend to understand that times can change and business can change hands and a young person can come in and strike a new tone and can be forgiven.”
Perry explained the amount of hurt that had lingered since Anthony Barney made anti-gay sentiments in Life magazine. Houston responded by saying that everyone is welcome now and there is a new sheriff in town with a different attitude.
“I thank you for being open-minded enough and be willing to come and hear from me that the past is the past and it’s a new era. I’m a new owner and that kind of prejudice and intolerance has no place in any American business and certainly not in Barney’s. We hope to exclude no one and cater to anyone who has an appreciation for fattening food, good chili, beer and loud rock and roll music,” said Houston.
Barney’s outreach campaign continues to make amends with the LGBT community with events like hosting homeless youth from the Gay & Lesbian Center for monthly lunches. This past decade has seen the successful opening of 5 replicas of the famous rowdy roadhouse at 5 high-end Southern California locations.
*Quotes from IN LA Magazine