A Medical District sports bar is under fire after owners allegedly made homophobic comments.
In a recording obtained by Dallas Voice, Redfield's Tavern owners Joe Tillotson and Scott Cecill were identified (by a source to the Voice) as having expressed displeasure toward LGBTQ clientele and employees in a conversation with a manager named Lindsey, who has since left the restaurant in protest.
On the recording, a man can be heard saying, “We are not going to try to be a gay bar to keep our business. ... We are going to fail,” adding that Redfield’s has “30-something investors” who were not told that Redfield’s would be a gay bar.
“I feel like we’ve hired people who are qualified, more than anything,” Lindsey said. “Because we needed better service, we got better service.”
Since the recording surfaced, Redfield’s Facebook page has been taken down. Negative reviews have flooded its Yelp page, resulting in a temporary moratorium on reviews allowed for the restaurant.
Redfield’s opened last November and one of its big pulls was that the partners were also once behind Bryan Street Tavern, Barley House and Katy Trail Ice House. The latter has since issued a statement on its Facebook page: “The Ice House has no common partners with, any ownership of or any relationship to Redfield’s Tavern. The Ice House has many partners. We cannot control, nor are we responsible for a single partner that left the partnership over seven years ago.”
A former Redfield’s employee, who is a member of the LGBTQ community and agreed to speak with us under the condition of anonymity, says he suspected the owners may have been homophobic but initially gave them the benefit of the doubt.
“I thought maybe it was something that would dissipate with time,” the former employee said. “I thought they would be able to see that [we] were able to at least work really well with the team there and hopefully change their mind. And I did feel like at the time, Redfield’s was turning into a gay hotspot. So I was like, well, ‘Maybe the owner was that way, but maybe the staff there could change their mind.’ I know it was a dumb decision, but I had just started my job there.”
The former employee left Redfield’s a few days before the recording was made public, though he says the owners’ alleged homophobia had become more evident over time. He recalls a situation in which a gay friend of his applied for a job at Redfield’s.
“I got a thing from the manager saying that the owners didn’t want to hire any more gay guys, or guys in general,” the former employee said. “They wanted to keep hiring women and have more women on the staff. Even though the person had applied there, and everything seemed like it was set up, and everything went well, he didn't get the job there. I noticed his application pretty much sat out in the area where the customers were for almost three weeks, until I told him that his application was out there and asked him what we wanted to do with it. So we just grabbed it and got rid of it. So it wasn't sitting there where anybody could see it.”
Dallas’ LGBTQ community has since planned a “funeral” for Redfield’s, in which they will occupy the bar, not order any food or beverages but tip the servers, who have “always supported us.”
In a statement to the Observer, representatives of Redfield’s said, “Recent comments to the contrary have been taken out of context, blown up on social media and exaggerated for effect. To those offended, hurt or discouraged by any of those comments, we sincerely apologize. It was never our intent to hurt anyone, minimize any customer or cast any dispersion [sic] on the gay community. We deeply regret any such impression to the contrary.”
UPDATE: Just after publishing this story, Tillotson sent us an email, noting he reached out to his staff Oct. 10 to clarify statements made in the recorded meeting.
Joe Hinkson, owner of Bryan Street Tavern, also issued a statement Thursday: "In response to the article by the Dallas Voice regarding Redfield's and just for clarification, I purchased Bryan Street Tavern almost 10 years ago, just over two years after it was opened. It goes without saying, we have always supported the LGBTQ+ community. It's unfortunate we were mentioned in the article as anyone who has been here can attest to the fact there is not an ounce of bigotry to be found at Bryan Street Tavern. Discrimination in any form is completely unacceptable. We might have the most diverse clientele in Dallas and wouldn’t want it any other way."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.