Firework Thrown at Local Gay Bar Unsettles Community

Despite rumors, the Iron Bear asks patrons to not panic

A firework was thrown onto Iron Bear’s patio early this morning, startling patrons and inciting fear amongst Austin’s LGBTQ community. Though no one was injured, concern has been raised over the Austin Police Department’s failure to investigate despite a 911 dispatcher’s promise to send an officer to the city’s only bear bar.

According to general manager Jason Grodzinsky, the firework – which he described “like a little M80” – was thrown from a car and went off in a cloud of unwelcome sparkle just after last call. There was no warning, and whoever threw it didn’t say anything. Grodzinsky, whose back was turned to Eighth Street, where he suspects the firework was thrown from, said he was “startled” by the loud blast and saw pops of light. Because of the perpetrator’s silence, Grodzinsky doesn’t know if the incident was “motivated by hate,” but said he’d like to “think of it as an isolated event.”

Though roughly a dozen patrons peppered the patio, no one was appeared seriously injured and no damage was done to the building or patio. (Grodzinsky did learn this morning that the sparks burned one customer’s ankles.) The GM called 311 to report the incident, but was transferred to a 911 dispatcher. According to Grodzinsky, the dispatcher took down his name and phone number and assured him that an officer would be sent to the scene. Grodzinsky estimates that he left the bar around 3:20am after completing the closing duties. Neither he nor his employees saw an officer, and Grodzinsky said he has not been contacted by anyone at APD.

This afternoon, APD told the Chronicle that they are “looking into” these claims and will get back to us.

Despite APD’s no-show, Grodzinsky and bar owners Roger Rozell and Bengie Beshear are staying calm. “Don’t get me wrong, it scared the shit out of me,” Grodzinsky said. “But I’m fairly certain it was an isolated incident.” He also noted that the bear bar, located Downtown at the corner of Eighth and Colorado, has never received any type of threats and is still a safe place. Around noon, amidst social media updates spiraling out of control, Beshear posted on the Iron Bear’s Facebook page to “calm the rhetoric down,” writing: “We do not feel this was a targeted incident more of someone being an asshole.”

Whether or not the attack was targeted – Austin has no shortage of bars, but only a handful of gay bars – the timing couldn’t be worse. Following yesterday’s retirement announcement from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote moderate who pushed for marriage equality, many in the queer community worry that hard-won LGBTQ rights (among others) will be revoked by a more conservative court. Needless to say, the community is on edge with good reason.


Beshear’s full statement is below:

So just to calm the rhetoric down, some one from a car threw a firecracker, not an explosive device, onto the patio last night close to 2AM. No one was hurt. No slurs accompanied the firecracker. The cops were called just to be safe but no officer had shown up by the time all the employees left. We do not feel this was a targeted incident more of someone being an asshole.

Thanks

Bengie

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