Metro Weekly

Transgender woman says she was kicked out of DC’s Cuba Libre for using women’s restroom

Popular restaurant and bar allegedly asked Charlotte Clymer to leave after she refused to show her ID to access the restroom

Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar – Photo: Facebook.

A transgender woman was allegedly kicked out of a popular D.C. restaurant after she refused to show her ID to staff who tried to prevent her from using the women’s restroom.

Charlotte Clymer took to Facebook on Saturday after a staffer at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar apparently attempted to prevent her from using the women’s restroom early Saturday morning.

Clymer, a rapid response press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, claims in her Facebook post that she was at the restaurant on Friday night and early Saturday morning for a close friend’s bachelorette party.

Around midnight, she attempted to use the women’s restroom, when an attendant allegedly asked to see her ID, saying that it must note “female” in order for her to use the restroom. No one else was asked for identification, according to Clymer.

“This is a packed hallway in a packed club/restaurant, and this random staff person specifically picks me out to ask for ID. I told him that’s nonsense, turned on my heel, and continued into the restroom,” Clymer wrote. “I go into a stall to do my business, and I hear him walk in and search for me in this busy restroom full of women. He is doing everything but opening the stall doors. I ignore him, and after a few moments, he leaves. I do my business, wash my hands, and walk out.”

As she exited the restroom, Clymer claims she was accosted by the attendant and the manager, who both allegedly told her that it’s District law that she has to have “female” on her identification to use the women’s restroom. Clymer again declined to show her ID, and notified both that they were wrong about the law. (Under D.C.’s Human Rights Act, transgender people are allowed to use facilities that match their gender identity, and it is illegal for places of public accommodation to discriminate against them solely on the basis of said gender identity.)

Charlotte Clymer – Photo: Facebook.

The manager then allegedly told Clymer that her “being in [the restroom] will make women uncomfortable.” When Clymer brought up D.C.’s law regarding restrooms on her mobile phone and showed it to the manager, he apparently told her “that’s incorrect,” and threatened to call the police if she did not leave.

“I told him I work for the Human Rights Campaign, he’s making a mistake here, and he needs to adjust his course of action,” Clymer wrote. “I told him this is discrimination and said he’s being a bigot. He laughed and mocked my workplace. ‘Oh, I know you folks.'”

After Clymer left the club at the manager’s demands, she was comforted by several witnesses, including a staffer from a California congresswoman’s office. Clymer claims one of her friends told her that the manager had asked a non-binary person for their ID just minutes after his confrontation with Clymer.

“I’m not the kind of person who calls cops, but at that point, I didn’t know what else to do. In D.C., a city celebrated for its LGBTQ culture, inclusivity, and protections, it stunned me that a business could so openly discriminate against transgender people,” Clymer wrote.

According to an incident report from the Metropolitan Police Department, two police cars responded to the restaurant around 12:30 a.m. and began collecting statements from Clymer, various witnesses and the manager. The officers on scene radioed for their LGBTQ liaison unit, which also responded and debriefed Clymer on her rights under the law.

The incident report relates Clymer’s version of the story, as well as the attendant and manager’s claim that it is “their company policy to ID everybody who wish to utilize the bathroom.” The responding officer noted in the report that the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, which licenses and regulates bars and other nightlife spots, was notified about the incident.

An MPD spokeswoman confirmed that the investigation into the incident remains ongoing.

A public relations consultant for Cuba Libre offered a statement apologizing for the incident.

“We are extremely sorry for the incident that occurred at our restaurant last night,” the restaurant told Metro Weekly. “As a rule, we support safe bathrooms and welcome guests of all gender identifications. We are immediately retraining our entire staff to ensure this does not happen again.”

Clymer said that she was “told Cuba Libre will face investigations by the city’s licensing authority and the D.C. Office of Human Rights,” adding that officers present “told me I had a very strong case.” (A spokesperson for the D.C. Office of Human Rights was not immediately available for comment.)

“On Monday, I will begin pursuing all available legal options against Cuba Libre,” Clymer wrote. “If the manager had apologized when I showed him the law and committed to doing better, I’d still be angry, but we wouldn’t be here. He didn’t do that. He did the exact opposite.”

Clymer’s fellow HRC colleague, Sarah McBride, tweeted about the incident, prompting a number of other LGBTQ activists and allies to tweet their support for Clymer.

“Disgusting discrimination. There is no excuse for this kind of blatant bigotry. And, thankfully, it is 100 percent unlawful. Let us know if you need any legal backup, Charlotte,” wrote Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Mayor Muriel Bowser apologized to Clymer, calling the type of discrimination she experienced “not just illegal, it’s against all we stand for.”

Even former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton also weighed in on the incident, offering her sympathy and complimenting Clymer for her “grace and bravery.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include a statement from Cuba Libre’s public relations consultant. The headline was also updated.

This is a developing story.

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Shelf Wood
John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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