Metro Weekly

Bomb Threats Target Freddie’s Beach Bar: Update

Owner Freddie Lutz says threats are tied to drag queen storytime events and have also been lodged against his personal residence.

Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. – Photo: JD Uy

A Drag Queen Story Time event scheduled for Saturday, April 6, at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington, Va., was delayed for over an hour after an unknown person emailed a bomb threat.

Local police evacuated the popular LGBTQ bar while a bomb-sniffing dog searched the premises.

Ultimately, the dog found no trace of any explosives. Patrons of Freddie’s, who had clustered in the outdoor seating area and parking lot behind the bar, eventually returned inside, and the show — featuring musical numbers and children’s book readings by drag queen Tara Hoot — continued.

We had a great sold-out crowd for the show,” owner Freddie Lutz told Metro Weekly. “They all waited an entire hour while the place was being searched and came back in. It was families with kids, babies, even one grandmother.”

Lutz, who had traveled from his bar in Rehoboth Beach to Arlington for the show, said at least three separate emails were sent threatening violence against his businesses and his home in South Arlington.

The first, which led to the brief evacuation, targeted his Arlington bar, as well as Lutz’s home address. 

A second email, which Lutz learned about when traveling back to Rehoboth later that same day, targeted the Freddie’s Beach Bar location in Rehoboth, and threatened violence against Lutz personally.

The police chief of Rehoboth Beach and officials from the Department of Homeland Security offered to sweep the location to ensure there were no incendiary devices. 

Lutz said a third threat, emailed Tuesday evening and intercepted by law enforcement, targeted his home address specifically.

Local police, along with representatives from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, are now involved in the ongoing investigation. Lutz is hopeful that they’ll be able to track down the source of those threats. 

“I guess they see us as some sort of threat to their children or their Christian values or whatever, but for me, it’s always been live and let live, let people make their own decisions,” he said. “None of these types of threats really happened until a certain You-Know-Who came along, and now everybody’s coming out of the woodwork. Apparently, they were always there, which is very scary for me to even think about. But now they have permission to come out of the cracks and express themselves in these horrible ways.”

A spokesperson for the Arlington County Police Department told Metro Weekly in an email that the department, in conjunction with federal law enforcement, continues to investigate the reported threats.

While the spokesperson confirmed that no arrests have been made at this time, she declined to release further information about the threats, to preserve the integrity of the investigation. 

The spokesperson also noted that Arlington police officers are conducting additional patrols around the Virginia location.

Lutz, who is 73, noted that he grew up watching prominent entertainers like Milton Berle or Flip Wilson and various comedians doing drag at some point in their careers. Yet he said he doesn’t remember those performances sparking the level of outrage or vitriol that seems to accompany any event or performance that incorporates drag these days.

He also distinguishes between the type of entertainment in Tara Hoot’s show, which she performs at various local establishments and contains more family-friendly and G- or PG-rated material, and Freddie’s regularly occurring drag shows held on Saturday nights, which may contain blue humor.

“Whenever someone calls and asks me, ‘Can we bring our kids in for the [Saturday night] drag show?’, I always say, ‘You can, but I have to warn you there’s some adult content.’ And it’s then, in my opinion, up to the parents to decide whether they want to bring their kids or not,” he says. “I think the same principle applies to Drag Queen Story Time. I feel it’s up to parents whether they want their kids to attend.”

The content of Tara Hoot’s show, however, is relatively benign. 

“There’s no bad language, no sexual content,” he says. “Having watched the show myself, my reaction was that it was an innocent, fun show. And looking around the room, the kids were enjoying it. There was a little girl dressed in her Taylor Swift outfit, and some others were those little tutus. They were dancing around and everybody was having a great time, including the one grandmother in attendance.”

Lutz noted that there were two Christians, a man and a woman, who protested outside Freddie’s on the day of Drag Queen Story Time. Initially, they set up near the back of the restaurant, in the parking lot, not realizing that the show was supposed to be held inside and that people were only gathered in the parking lot while the bomb squad checked that everything was secure. They later moved in front of the restaurant, spewing anti-gay rhetoric, but didn’t seem to have any significant impact on the event or the attendees.

Lutz said Freddie’s would not be cowed into canceling any future Story Time events. The next performance is planned for May 4.

Hoot, who hosts various drag-themed events throughout the D.C. metro area, says this isn’t the first time that one of her shows has been threatened with violence. A previous Story Time event at Crazy Aunt Helen’s was placed on a “protest list” of the Proud Boys, a right-wing white supremacist group. Hundreds of counter-protesters affiliated with the pro-LGBTQ group Parasol Patrol outnumbered the Proud Boys on that day, showing their support for the restaurant and the drag performers.

Another Story Time event, part of a drag brunch at Motorkat restaurant in Takoma Park, Maryland, was canceled after a bomb threat, leading to not only the evacuation of the restaurant, but the city block surrounding the area. A third Story Time event, which occurs monthly at Shakers, also led to emailed death threats, prompting police to respond.

“It seems every place I go, these threats follow me around,” Hoot says. “They’ve even targeted a non-family event, a drag bingo brunch I host at Whitlow’s.”

Hoot, who describes her drag persona as “Mister Rogers in a dress,” says her events aren’t the tawdry affairs that anti-LGBTQ activists and religious zealots paint them as.

“A lot of the hate I receive is just based on misinformation,” says Hoot. “You know, people yell ‘groomer’ and things like that. They don’t know who I am in life. I feel they’re spending an awful lot of time judging things that they don’t know anything about. They’re just completely, and willfully, ignorant.”

Hoot said her drag, which started as a “pandemic hobby,” has brought joy to people. She hasn’t received any complaints at the events she’s done. 

“The content is family-appropriate,” she says. “It’s toddler books and classic Broadway songs, like ‘Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’ or ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.'”

While acknowledging her critics may accuse her of exposing children to inappropriate material, Hoot notes that most of the people she performs for in drag are adults, whether she’s at a traditionally queer space or at an establishment that primarily caters to heterosexuals. She notes that any children who attend her Family Fun Story Time events do so with their parents in tow.

“I’m not forcing anybody to come to my shows,” she says. “This is people of their own free will coming to attend, to share these shows with their children and families. And that’s their right as a parent.”

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