- Owner of LGBT+ venue Baltimore Eagle says authorities used excessive force and put customers at risk.
The owner of LGBT+ leather and Levis bar, Baltimore Eagle, says a ‘SWAT’ team in ‘black body armor’ raided his premises over claims it was breaching COVID-19 rules.
The Baltimore Eagle has been part of the LGBT+ scene in the city in Maryland, USA, for three decades.
But Eagle owner Ian Parrish told the Washington Blade that the authorities used excessive force in the raid on 7 August.
Moreover, he claims people working in a competing LGBT+ venue sparked the raid. He says the allegations they made against the Eagle were false.
When officials arrived, Parrish says he asked to take their temperature. He told them the precaution ‘is part of our COVID-19 protocols for all people entering the premises’.
However he claims they replied: ‘We’re the fucking liquor board.’
In a complaint email sent Maryland State Senator Mary Washington which the Blade has seen he adds:
‘Then, the horde of the agents in body armor walked through me. I was ping-ponged from side to side as each agent physically pushed me from left to right and back about ten feet as they forced their way past me.
‘Not only did those agents abuse their authority by assaulting me, they put our patrons at risk… Some of them weren’t even wearing masks!’
He said the ‘SWAT style show of force… frightened our patrons to the point of them leaving.’
Foam party fears
However Baltimore City Health Department described the agents’ raid as an ‘inspection’.
Meanwhile, the ‘body armor’ is standard issue to protect officers, the official added.
He said the Eagle was violating a new city order, made earlier that day. The agents moved indoor patrons to the Eagle’s outdoor space and didn’t impose a penalty.
Moreover he said the authorities were responding to a complaint about the Eagle hosting a ‘foam party’ on 7 and 8 August.
The flier for the party said: ‘Throw on your harness and get naughty under piles of safe, antibacterial foam on our social distance patio. Thank you for respecting our COVID-19 guidelines.’
Parrish claims the foam party would have been safe.
Meanwhile another stalwart of the LGBT+ scene in Baltimore has been lost to coronavirus this month. Grand Central, which has been in business for 30 years, said it will be shutting permanently.
Its closure follows a breach of coronavirus regulations on 30 July which the licencees said was accidental.
The gay-owned City Cafe closed earlier in the summer.