Openings and Closings

Does Redfield’s Tavern Deserve a Second Chance After Controversy?

Redfield's is now Redfield's Neighborhood Tavern (but still has the same ownership).
Redfield's is now Redfield's Neighborhood Tavern (but still has the same ownership). courtesy of Redfield's Tavern
It’s tough to open a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic, and even more so following a controversy. After a brief closure following the surfacing of a recording with homophobic comments allegedly made by the bar’s owners, Redfield’s Tavern reopened Monday as Redfield’s Neighborhood Tavern.

Redfield’s became a hot spot for Dallas’ LGBTQ community this past summer, as many of the bars in the gayborhood were closed because of COVID-19. After the recording became public, many members of the community celebrated the demise of Redfield’s in a Facebook group called Redfield’s Dead! and had “funeral” celebrations for the bar.

The new Redfield’s is spearheaded by Dylan Asher, who will serve as the bar’s chief operator, as originally reported by CultureMap Dallas. Asher, who is openly gay, says he's committed to cultivating an inclusive environment.

“I come from a place of openness and understanding,” Asher says. “I chose to take the time to talk with [managing partner] Grant [Ireland], talk with [owner] Joe [Tillotson], and see it as a teachable moment where we go over the things that were said, the things that were done, how we can go about fixing those things and teach people to learn and grow from their mistakes.”

While Redfield’s hasn’t partnered with any delivery services, it offers curbside pick up. On the inside, tables are spaced apart for social-distancing. Asher has also built more structure behind the bar, so guests can efficiently be served. The patio has large heaters, helpful for winter temperatures.

click to enlarge Dylan Asher - COURTESY OF REDFIELD'S TAVERN
Dylan Asher
courtesy of Redfield's Tavern
Upon its reopening, Redfield’s has joined the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and it will host a New Year’s Eve event with the band Bandolero to raise money for the AIDS Interfaith Network.

Despite Redfield’s efforts, many are still skeptical about returning to the bar. Although he feels that hiring a gay chief operator is a step in the right direction, Mike Karbowski, who frequented Redfield’s this past summer, admits he feels “cynical” about Redfield’s.

“I was shocked and saddened [upon hearing the recording,]” Karbowski says. “I remember thinking ... how cool it was to be [at] a ‘straight’ establishment that was so inclusive. First time I went was with a straight couple, and I quickly realized it was full of gays I recognized. That’s why we went back. That’s why hearing the recording was so upsetting.”

Also skeptical about Redfield’s is Tarah Drouin, who has never been to Redfield’s, but has used this moment as a lesson to be more conscious of the types of businesses she supports.

“If you think you can make money off of a community while advocating against them, you're not only a bigot, but you're also a shitty business owner,” Drouin says. “...This kind of undercover behavior scares me ... This behavior is dangerous for the entire community. If everyone isn't welcome, then no one is, in my opinion.”

While many members of the community have vowed not to give their business to Redfield’s, longtime Oak Lawn resident John Grissom says he has no qualms about visiting the neighborhood tavern. Grissom believes everyone is worthy of redemption.

“Everybody deserves a second chance,” Grissom says. “...Everybody’s allowed mistakes. People need to learn from those mistakes in order to grow. But if you keep making the same mistake, there's a problem.”

Asher is aware some members of the community have doubts about the new Redfield’s, especially given that the original owners are still affiliated with the tavern. Regardless, he plans to build a setting where people of all walks of life can feel included.

“We're gonna work day-in and day-out to make sure that everybody feels comfortable, everybody feels safe, everybody feels welcome,” Asher says. “What happened in the past happened in the past. And while it's important to understand the feelings that were hurt and the damage that was done, it's also important to understand that you can rebuild off these things, and that you can create a better product from a product that was damaged.”

Redfield's Neighborhood Tavern, 2213 Butler St. (Medical District). Open from 11 a.m to 2 a.m. daily.
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Alex Gonzalez has been a contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2018. He is a Dallas native whose work has appeared in Local Profile, MTV News and the Austin American-Statesman. He has eclectic taste in music and enjoys writing about art, food and culture.
Contact: Alex Gonzalez