Human Relations Commission Orders Gayborhood Bar Owners to Attend Hearing

We talked with PCHR executive director Rue Landau shortly after the announcement on Friday night.
Rue Landau

Rue Landau

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) announced on Friday night that it had issued subpoenas to “all of the bar owners in the ‘gayborhood’” demanding their attendance at an October 25th hearing on racism and discrimination in the city’s LGBTQ community.

The owners of the 11 bars subpoenaed — including those of ICandy and Woody’s, which have come under fire for allegations of racist dress code policies — must also “bring with them copies of any dress code policies, employment policies, nondiscrimination policies, training manuals, and any other rules or policies governing the provision of services to patrons.”

Following the announcement, G Philly reached out via email to Rue Landau, executive director of PCHR, for a brief Q&A about the commission’s decision.

Why did PCHR think it was necessary to issue subpoenas to the bar owners?
We have received many informal complaints from members of the LGBTQ community, particularly people of color, expressing their concern about alleged racist and discriminatory practices at the bars in the gayborhood. At recent community meetings, people have been extremely upset that, despite invitations, the bar owners have not been present to hear their complaints. Since the PCHR has subpoena power, we thought it was best to compel the bar owners’ attendance at our October 25th public educational hearing.

What is the extent of PCHR’s subpoena power?
The PCHR can compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents under Section 8-409 of the Home Rule Charter and PCHR Regulation 4.4 (e) that governs our public educational hearings.

Will anyone else be subpoenaed?
We currently do not have plans to subpoena anyone else.

Will bar owners be allowed legal representation during the hearing?
Yes, they can have legal representation.

In what other situations has PCHR compelled appearances via subpoenas?
The PCHR issues subpoenas often during the investigations of our discrimination cases. We have not issued subpoenas to compel people to attend our public educational hearings in the past.

PCHR’s public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, October 25th, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Liberty Resources, 112 North 8th Street, Suite 600. For more information and/or to sign up to testify, contact the commission at 215-686-4670 or phila.gov/humanrelations.