Dear PoPville – Bistro 18 Being Unfairly Bullied?

by Prince Of Petworth June 13, 2014 at 1:25 pm 41 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

Not sure if any of your readers are aware of this “controversy,” but Bistro 18 seems to be in a bit of hot water with Lambda Legal and the DC Office of Human Rights. According to the story, a transgender patron was presented a receipt with “Gay Bitches” as the table number about a year ago. When confronted about the faux pas, the manager did the right thing by waiving the bill and fired the server on the spot, but they still got Lambda Legal involved and now have a case pending with the DC Office of Human Rights.

I think that this is a ridiculous action on both the part of the patron and Lambda Legal. Bistro 18 is an LGBT-friendly establishment that has hosted numerous fundraisers for the local community. Additionally, several of the staff members there are part of the LGBT community and it’s a shame that they will ultimately suffer because of the bad publicity. Since the complaint was filed, Lambda Legal even went so far as to incite a cyber-bullying campaign against Bistro 18, which has resulted in their Yelp score suffering with petty reviews from non-DC residents.

Here’s a good take on the incident from The Bilerico Project, a major LGBT Blog:

With LGBT activists and netizens constantly ready to retaliate against any perceived slight and conservative Christians regularly claiming that many businesses are unfairly attacked by activists, what responsibility does Lambda Legal have to ensure that they aren’t damaging a business’ reputation without reason? Should they be held responsible for any harm they cause the establishment – particularly if the bar is found innocent by the city’s human rights commission?

  • Anonymous

    Unless Bistro 18 has a history of LGBT transgressions, it does seem somewhat unfair to be singled out as a restaurant. This was the act of a single individual who was fired on the spot and the manager waived the bill. Why keep pushing the issue with Bistro 18? What else do folks want out of the establishment?

    • brookland_rez

      I agree, it seems like Bistro 18 made proper restitution already. Time to move on….

    • It definitely seems unnecessarily litigious. There are no shortage of actual things to make a case about, why push this one?

    • Anonymous


    • Enjay

      Exactly. The incident was a year ago and Bistro 18 immediately and appropriately handled it. I see no point in bringing a lawsuit unless this is just an attempt to paint everyone as discriminatory homophobes.

    • textdoc

      Agreed with Anonymous 1:42 and brookland_rez — the manager took appropriate and timely action by firing the server on the spot and comping the meal.
      And as Justin points out, presumably Lambda Legal’s money/time could be better spent elsewhere.

    • Navy Yard Res

      I’m gay and I agree. When you feel wronged and someone does everything they can to correct the situation, what more do you want? Waiving the bill and firing the person on the spot is enough. Ugh, I hate when the gay community pushes things too far like this.

  • Anonymous

    free meal, server fired. what the heck else do u want? so some employee does something mean and stupid and now the restaurant has to face legal action. that is wrong. grow up.

  • Anonymous

    Even before the incident, they had their fair share of one star reviews on yelp. It sucks for them and seems unfair, but it sounds like it’s not that good of a bar/restaurant to begin with.

    • dcd

      I’m not sure this is a road you want to go down – only restaurants that satisfy the refined palates of Yelp reviewers are entitled to be treated fairly? If quality is the most important factor in how the public can behave re: an eating establishment, I should be able to take a s*** on the hostess stand at Lauriol Plaza and no one would care.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, I’m not sure that that was what was inferred.

        • dcd

          Really? “It sucks for them and seems unfair, but it sounds like it’s not that good of a bar/restaurant to begin with.” Not sure what else I’m supposed to take from that.

  • skj84

    I did not realize the whole incident was a year ago! Bistro 18 did the right thing by comping the check and firing the server. Why is Lambada Legal beating a dead horse? Bad form.

    • Reactionary.

      Did I hear mention of beating a dead horse? Call PETA!

  • Anonymous

    I find this all a bit confusing. Do we know for certain that the bar gave them free drinks, comped the meal, and fired the server, or is that just the bar’s side of the story? It quotes the LAMBDA guy as saying, “if the establishment has fired someone over it, it sounds like they have acknowledged the offense.” Why is it so vague? Either they took those actions or they didn’t. Did anyone ask Ms. Gray or the members of the party to speak to the bar’s version of events? I think all parties should just go to Judge Judy and let her sort it out.

    • Mintwood

      saying “if the establishment has fired someone over it” is saying that the establishment fired someone in legal speak. He’s trying to say that the firing and comping the bill means the restaurant is culpable….ala he’s as bad as an ambulance chaser but for gay rights. He’s an embarrassment to the gay community.

  • Anonymous

    Please be patient as you answer my question: how was that discriminatory?
    If a server presents me and my girlfriends with a bill that says “bitches”, I sure would want the server fired and my meal comped. But since when is “gay” an insult? How is writing that on a bill discriminatory? Did they receive poor service and felt it was related to being gay? That, to me, would be discriminatory.

    • Anonymous

      It’s discriminatory because the word “gay” is being used in conjunction with the word “bitches”. This brings a negative connotation to the word “gay”. Imagine a group of black men sitting a table, and a server presents a bill that says “blacks”. You don’t see how that could be construed as offensive?

      • dcd

        Discriminatory and offensive are entirely separate concepts.

    • Bnon

      Being labeled as “gay bitches” is offensive and in poor taste to begin with. One of the patrons in the party was transgender and I’m sure that person would have taken offense to the receipt.

      • Anonymous

        Isn’t being labeled as “bitches” offensive and in poor taste?

        • Bnon

          Yes it is.

      • John

        Agreed! And the patrons received their justice in the form of a comped check and the offending server being fired.

        • Bnon

          Comping the check and firing the server, to me, seem like the appropriate responses. I don’t know what else the party would want from Bistro 18. A formal, written apology from the owners? Mandated discrimination training for all employees? I think the Yelp crusade against the Bistro 18 is silly. Who goes to hookah bars anyways?

  • BW

    So I get how this individual waiter at Bistro 18 is out of line here..but how is it specifically discrimination? Just referring to someone by a name is not discrimination. It’s unjust or prejudicial treatment.

    I realize it’s a small point to quibble about, but the line says discriminating against customers is against the law. So it’s kind of an important distinction.

    Imagine I get a bill that says “white douchebag.” Is that discrimination? Just curious.

    • BW

      For Example. If the restaurant or waiter had said “I won’t serve ‘gay bitches,” then I can understand the discrimination argument. But simply calling someone a name does not indicate a legal discriminatory treatment, necessarily in my view.

    • anon

      Actually yes, it could be discrimination. I’m not sure what BW means by a “legal discriminatory treatment.” Federal law doesn’t protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation, but D.C. law does. The DC HR law covers public accommodations (like restaurants) and prohibits statements that indicate that certain people are unwelcome at the establishment.
      Whether just one use of a slur rises to the level of discrimination is probably a matter of interpretation under D.C. law. Either way – this is pretty weak on Lambda’s part. I donate to them and intend to send them something asking them wtf they’re trying to do here.

    • Reality

      you’re the reason a response by advocacy groups is needed…. seriously.

      • BW


  • Anonymous

    Folks, the real crime here in MANGO MARGARITAS. Is there no decency anymore??!!

  • Anon

    Folks, the real crime here is the MANGO MARGARITA. Is there no decency anymore??!!

  • andy2

    They also were not served and were treated as anything but deserving customers.
    Discrimination exists all over this country and if we want to live in a country that embraces equality fully then ou have to stomp out inequality when you see it.

    • Patrick

      Actually it sounds like they were?

    • John M

      And by “stomp out inequality” you mean put places out of business for doing the right thing?

    • AG

      Yes, and firing the person who perpetrated those actions is stomping it out. There is no evidence here that this behavior was commonplace at this restaurant. Why should an establishment be punished for the actions of an individual?

  • anon

    For what it’s worth, Lambda has a response here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20140612_update-on-dc-restaurant-matter
    Seems that accounts differ as to how the restaurant ownership really reacted.

    • John M

      “…multiple members of a large group of friends who were with Amira…”

      They have hearsay; Bistro 18 will have proof in the form of HR records and register receipts.

      • Anonymous

        “Bistro 18 will have proof in the form of HR records and register receipts.”

        How do you know that? The blog post linked here offers no such proof; it’s just the manager telling his side of the story. I have no clue which account is more credible, and unless you were there, neither do you.

  • Reality

    I’d be a little more careful with throwing around the word “bully” when it was the server who did it to begin with, and the LGBT community who suffers from it every single day of their lives.

    • John M

      Guess what? You don’t have to be LGBT to be bullied. Lambda Legal used its bully pulpit to harass the business without fully looking into the facts of the matter.


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