Boston Irish Bar Faces Backlash After Hosting Pride Party in Support of Next-Door Queer Bar

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This past weekend, during Boston’s annual citywide Pride celebration, Back Bay Irish pub A.T. O’Keeffe’s was targeted with homophobic messaging and one-star reviews after hosting a Sapphic Nights party in partnership with Dani’s Queer Bar.

Pride, including the annual parade and month-long event, celebrates the rich diversity, culture, and intersectionality of the LGBTQ+ community in Boston, and many restaurants and bars participate in the yearly party with themed dance nights, drag shows, and drag brunches. In a display of solidarity, Irish bar A.T. O’Keeffe’s Provisions and Pub on Boylston Street in Back Bay offered its space to forthcoming next-door neighbors, the highly anticipated Dani’s Queer Bar — which, when it opens, will be one of only a handful of lesbian bars in the entire country — for a Pride celebration.

Billed as “Sapphic Nights: A Pride Day Party,” the event started on Saturday, June 8, at 11 a.m. when the team at O’Keeffe’s opened its doors and swapped out the American flag that flies daily for a celebratory Pride flag inscribed with the message to “Be Yourself.” The bar posted a video of the flag swap on Instagram with the caption: “We love our neighbors!!!! @danisqueerbarboston so excited to be part of your magic! LET’S GO!!!!!!!!” Then, the Irish pub hosted a Pride party with queer DJs, dancing, and more.

But not everyone was happy with O’Keeffe’s for hosting the party, or flying the Pride flag. On Sunday, the Instagram account for Dani’s shared a distressing message, writing that the pub was being “targeted by homophobes leaving fake negative reviews.” The Dani’s team encouraged anyone who attended the party and enjoyed themselves to leave a positive review to counteract the negative ratings.

O’Keeffe’s and Dani’s Queer Bar did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this story.

While the reviews for O’Keeffe’s on Google are primarily positive, several suspicious negative anonymous reviews popped up on Yelp, and its owners saw some negative comments on an Instagram post announcing the event. The criticism seemed centered on replacing the American flag with a Pride flag. Instagram user @Bishop_91 wrote, “Never take old glory down. She flies highest and center most above all other flags. You should be ashamed.” User @TimBulgerJr wrote, “As a veteran. I wish you nothing but misfortune.” User @baehr.broc wrote, “take your gay bs somewhere else.” The Yelp reviews posted on June 8 were all from anonymous accounts, and claimed that “the place had roaches.”

According to the VFW’s rules of flag etiquette, the U.S. flag should be at peak when it is flying on the same staff as another flag. There are no stated rules about privately owned businesses replacing the flag for an event.

Massachusetts has a long history of supporting and celebrating LGBTQ+ people and their rights. The state’s first Pride march was held in Boston in 1971. Massachusetts was the first state to recognize same-sex marriages, in 2004, more than 20 years ago. The state’s governor Maura Healy made history as the first out lesbian to be elected governor in the country in 2022.

Despite the disparaging comments and one-star reviews, comments on O’Keeffe’s original Instagram post are overwhelmingly positive, with local food photographer Brian Samuels commenting, “Thank you for being an ally!!!” Berklee College commented with clapping-hands emojis in a sign of support, while another commenter, @gothess.jasmine, wrote, “You must be doing something right if hateful ppl are bothered. Continue fostering love and safety as you’re doing.”

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