Vincent Gray – Photo: District of Columbia Mayor’s Office.
D.C. Councilmember and former Mayor Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) says a bouncer shoved him out of a gay nightclub this past weekend after a dispute over whether he had to show ID.
The incident allegedly occurred at the DC Eagle nightclub, in Northeast D.C., during Art All Night, a free arts festival held in eight locations throughout the city, according to The Washington Post.
The altercation began around 9 p.m., when Gray, who was attending the nearby Minnesota Avenue Main Street celebration of Art All Night, gave the bouncer his council identification card in lieu of showing an official ID.
But the bouncer wouldn’t accept the card, which shows no date of birth. Under regulations set forth by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, an establishment that sells alcohol must require a valid identification document — usually a license or passport — proving they are of legal drinking age.
When the bouncer wouldn’t allow him to enter the premises, Gray asked to speak to a manager. The bouncer then came from behind a counter and shoved the councilmember out of the door, causing him to fall, Sheila Bunn, the mayor’s chief of staff, told Metro Weekly.
Gray called police after he was shoved. Bunn says the councilmember sustained minors bruises to his hands and hurt his back. Police reports document Gray’s injuries, but say he declined medical attention.
Bunn said that Gray intends to press charges against the bouncer. She also noted that one of the club owners came outside after the incident, “profusely apologized” to Gray, and promised to fire the bouncer, although that has not been confirmed.
Representatives of the DC Eagle released a statement responding to the incident.
“The DC Eagle strives to keep our community, patrons, and children safe and has been a responsible and involved member of each of the communities we have resided in throughout the District,” the statement said. “Ward 7 is our fourth home, and as the oldest and largest gay bar in the District, we take our responsibility to the community very seriously.
“[At] meetings and in conversations with community leaders, our neighbors demand that we work hard to be a good neighbor and protect children. D.C.’s Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration regulations stipulate that their investigators may check the identification of any patron on our premises and anyone found to not have a valid ID would put our license at risk. Additionally, in an agreement with our ANC, we check the ID of 100% of people being served in our building. For an event like the one on Saturday, and any other high volume event, that is done at the door.
“We deeply regret that this situation escalated in the manner that it did and we appreciate and recognize the longstanding support and commitment Councilmember Vincent Gray has had for the LGBT community and the District as a whole. For this altercation to have occurred, we do apologize,” the statement added. The member of our security staff at the door that evening has only lived in the area for four months and is not familiar with Councilmember Gray’s service to the District.
“We will retrain all of our staff to ensure that a focus on customer service and de-escalation is adhered to. At this time, we are conducting an internal review and are cooperating with the relevant District agencies and offices.”
Asked whether the bouncer may have been justified in turning away the councilmember due to the strict penalties imposed on nightclubs for running afoul of ABRA regulations, Bunn said the bigger issue is not about whether the bouncer was supposed to require ID, but that he got physical with a patron, without provocation.
“I think the larger issue is that this person, unprovoked, put his hands on Mr. Gray. Regardless of the fact that he’s a sitting councilmember, he’s still a person. And the councilmember was not belligerent, he was not acting crazy, he did nothing to threaten the bouncer. He just asked a question,” Bunn said.
“He simply asked a question: ‘Why do you need to see something with my birthday on it?’ Had the bouncer said, ‘It is required by ABRA law,’ I doubt there would have been an issue. But it never got to that. The bouncer just said, ‘Because I do.’ When the councilmember asked if the manager or the owner was there, that’s when the bouncer came from behind the desk and started to shove the councilmember,” she added.
Gray also responded to the incident via Twitter.
“I am bruised and sore,” he tweeted. “However, I appreciate the concern and support I’ve received from many of you. It is vital that bouncers and security staff know to never lay hands on a patron except to prevent/break-up a physical altercation. Let’s treat one another with respect.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include further comment from Gray’s chief of staff, Sheila Bunn, and from the DC Eagle.