LGBTQNews & Opinion

Drag Community Launches Boycott of South End LGBTQ Bar

Owner of The Bar at 316 reportedly harasses performer, accused of troubling aggressive and racist history

A group of men stand outside of an LGBTQ bar holding signs with slogans such as "Shut Down 316" and "All Drag Is Valid."
Shelby Savage supporters protest outside of The Bar at 316, an LGBTQ bar in South End, on Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of Charlotte Gaymers Network)

More than 250 leaders of the LGBTQ community from across the Carolinas have signed on to a boycott campaign against The Bar at 316, an LGBTQ bar in South End, following reports that owner Jeff Edwards harassed a performer at the bar mid-show. 

In announcing the boycott on Wednesday, members of the local drag community said the incident was just the latest in a “history of aggression and racism, which has caused repeated harm to Black and Brown members of the LGBTQ+ community” from Edwards.

According to Wednesday’s release and social media posts from Shelby Savage, the performer allegedly targeted by Edwards on June 17, Savage had just begun their contracted performance onstage at The Bar at 316 when Edwards interrupted, aggressively rushing toward Savage and yelling, “Get this freak off my stage,” before ending the show. 

“This is yet another public incident where Jeff has publicly humiliated and harassed a local drag entertainer,” read Wednesday’s release. “This uncalled for public outburst is indicative of the danger Jeff Edwards presents to the community. For years, Jeff has been an indelible stain on Charlotte’s LGBTQ+ community, evidenced by the hundreds of reviews left by patrons which call out his behavior. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.” 

The release cites Edwards’ August 2019 arrest for resisting a police officer followed by a November 2019 arrest for assault and battery by strangulation.

LGBTQ organizations petition to boycott South End bar

“Incidents have added up, year over year, culminating in an individual who thinks he can treat folks however he wants, without fear of repercussions,” the release reads. “It is because of this that our community has felt the need to release this statement, and enact the extreme measures that we have to bring attention to this person and his misdeeds.” 

More than 250 drag performers, LGBTQ organizations, venue owners, show producers and allies from across the Carolinas have signed the petition to boycott The Bar at 316, which aims to “block any performer who collaborates with Jeff Edwards and The Bar at 316, in any way, from performing at any other venue in either state run by the undersigned.”

Edwards has owned The Bar at 316 for 13 years, according to the establishment’s website. A look through Google reviews for the space turns up dozens of negative reviews that make allegations of racist behavior against Edwards specifically and others working at the bar. 

Requests for comment from Edwards or the team at The Bar at 316 went unanswered.

Shelby Savage speaks on experience at The Bar at 316

In a post from Tuesday that tells the story of their experience on June 17, Shelby Savage said they had taken the gig only reluctantly. 

“I knew I shouldn’t have been in that bar. I remember from my college years how horrible and toxic of a bar that place was and obviously still is,” Savage wrote. “But, when two well-known local POC entertainers reached out and told me I should do the gig against my gut feeling, I decided to listen.”

Savage explained to Queen City Nerve on Wednesday that, during college, it had been an open secret among certain crowds that Edwards was manipulating the clientele in his bar by overpouring for patrons he found attractive and providing bad service for those he didn’t want as customers.

“If you are not a skinny white male, you will be discriminated against in some form or another. He will always search for a way to make himself feel better than you,” Savage said. “When Mr. Edwards called me a freak, he wasn’t saying that because of my costume or because of my dance ability. He called me a freak because I’m not what he is attracted to. He did not like watching me earn lots of money during my performance and decided, in his eyes, I was not worthy of continuing, kicking me off his stage and ending the show early.”

Shelby Savage, dressed in a bright orange pantsuit, accepts a tip from a show attendee
Shelby Savage (center) during a past drag performance not located at The Bar at 316. (Photo courtesy of Shelby Savage)

For Savage, the experience was especially disturbing at a time when drag entertainers and the venues that host them are being attacked by right-wing extremists on a near-daily basis across the country.

“To be attacked by a gay man in a queer establishment was very surprising to me,” Savage said. “We like to believe that every queer space is a safe space but sadly that is not true for all.”

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