A Montgomery, Alabama, Pride United celebration was reportedly shut down after an inspection by law enforcement last Saturday night (29 June).
According to police records and some witness accounts, authorities arrived at Touch of Soul Café and closed the celebrations down after an inspection concluded that the venue, as a restaurant, must close by midnight.
However, some staff accounts dispute this in an event compared by some LGBTIs to Stonewall.
Drag queens were busy contouring and powdering their noses when police officers arrived onto the downtown restaurant.
Owner Geri Moss believed she could keep her restaurant open until 2am. The celebrations only kicked-off at 11pm, but officers said they would force the front doors to shut by midnight.
Montgomery police sergeant David Hicks confirmed a restaurant in the 100 block of Montgomery Street was inspected at around 10.45pm on Saturday night.
Touch of Soul Café’s address is 115 Montgomery Street, in the southeastern state.
Although, some witness accounts alleged the sweep was around 11:30pm.
‘Sweeps are normal to me, but this one was different’
Moss told Gay Star News, while she herself was not present during the ‘raid,’ her son was at the event and rung her up when the officers showed up.
The 70-year-old said she’s used to ‘dealing with searches,’ having been in the restaurant business for years while living in New York before she packed to Alabama.
‘Sweeps are normal to me. But this one was different.’
Moss said that, leading-up to Pride, backlash began bubbling. She received calls from ‘Christian customers’ asking if she’ll be throwing any LGBTI events this Pride.
Moss alleged that the calls and the sweep might be connected.
She dialled the fire marshal and asked him if he was at the raid, ‘Nobody caught any names on the night, it caught everyone off guard.’ The marshal clarified that the Café was ‘on the list’ to be raided, Moss alleged.
‘Well, a lieutenant told the marshal that he saw someone [outside the café’] taking money to enter into the building. Based on what my workers were saying and told his guys, no tickets were sold. We do sell tickets as it was advertised.’
Geri alleged that the police forces were ‘aware’ of this.
‘I said to him that tickets were going to be sold, but there were no customers at the event. Not one ticket had been sold. No alcohol. No anything. They were beginning to come in during the raid – at about a 10:45pm.’
Moss also explained that some groups of customers had booked attendance to the event in advance and had began to show up just before and during the sweep.
Comparisons to Stonewall
Geri called to close the night as ‘figure it out’ the day after. But by the of Sunday, the story had ‘blown up.’ She said the LGBTI community have been ‘on top’ of supporting her.
Some LGBTIs have compared the incident to Stonewall. When asked about the comparison, Moss passionately said: ‘It is.’
‘People are suffering from a lack of respect and places to go. So, when people can come together and enjoy the same things, without all the looks and remarks, it’s just nice.
‘But then there are people who want tear that down.’
Gay Star News reached out to the Montgomery Police Department for comment.
Why can’t the restuarant stay open after midnight?
Technicalities are key here.
Moreover, WFSA12 News reported that ABC Board inspector Dean Argo said a restaurant license is issued for locations that are ‘habitually and principally’ used for the purpose of preparing and serving meals for the public to consume on the premises.
A pre-planned ABC board inspection of clubs and bars in the area was set to be held with police assistance. However, when police saw the restaurant had armed security and people collecting money at the time, an inspection was issued.
Argo said all ABC licensed and permitted premises are subject to inspection at any time and no agency was targeting the restaurant or any of the other businesses inspected.
According to Moss, she prepped the food that morning at 3am.