Yesterday afternoon, a CASS follower, Jessie, alerted us via Twitter of an unnerving Valentine’s Day drink special just announced by DC’s Hank’s Oyster Bar. The Dupont Circle restaurant and bar’s special, called “Couples Who Fight,” included drinks dedicated to “Chris and Rihanna” and “Sid and Nancy.” The problem with this? Rihanna was hospitalized for abuse at the hands of Chris Brown, and Sid Vicious has been widely accused of murdering Nancy Spungen. Intimate partner abuse is a serious epidemic that isn’t to be taken lightly or made into a gimmick.
Immediately, CASS joined with Jessie and other community members in letting @HanksOysterBar know that domestic violence is no laughing matter.
The response back was almost immediate: Within minutes of CASS and community members tweeting our concern, @HanksOysterBar issued an apology.
The owner, Jamie Leeds messaged us to underscore the apology. “It was never our intent to offend anyone, and as a woman owned business, we work very hard at promoting issues that affect women,” wrote Leeds in an email that Jessie shared with CASS.
How’s that for “collective action?!”
CASS is elated that Jamie and the staff of Hank’s Oyster Bar responded so promptly to the concerns of its patrons and DC community members at large.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) impacts the lives of millions that afflicts millions — including many people here in DC. According to our friends at DCCADV, a domestic violence-related call is made to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) about once every 17 minutes — a number that doesn’t include victims who are too scared, injured, or worse to report.
IPV takes place on a spectrum of gender-based violence, along with sexual violence and public sexual harassment and assault. Venues or other places that make light of this violence will likely have the effect of alienating and retraumatizing the 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men who experience it. If businesses send messages to the public that they don’t take gender-based violence seriously, then they quickly become an unsafe space for the 99 percent of women and 90 percent of bi & gay men who experience gender-based harassment in public spaces.
We thank Hank’s Oyster Bar for its swift and heartfelt decision to ditch its problematic drink special. Unfortunately, this incident marks the second time that CASS has had to call out a local business for sensationalizing or make light of domestic violence — especially around Valentine’s Day. However, we’re encouraged by Hank’s response, which showed its commitment to listening to the community and taking gender-based assault seriously. We hope that all DC bars take steps to show the same commitment.