Atlanta Gay Bar Burkhart’s Closes Following Racist Online Posts

Burkhart's Pub in Atlanta, Georgia

Following viral national attention last month, Burkhart’s Pub in Atlanta, Georgia permanently closed this week. The uproar began after owners Palmer and Mary Marsh published explicitly racist social media postings on their personal Facebook accounts.

As we reported last month, the owners publicly posted racist messages such as:

After screenshots of their racist postings went viral, Palmer Marsh doubled down on his statements. (That post has since been deleted.)

In a post to Facebook yesterday, co-owner Mary Marsh said, “Had to close the bar ‘ll heartbroken.”

She added today:

Sources in Atlanta say that while Palmer Marsh has tried to sell the bar, he’s refused all offers thus far.

Part of the reason Palmer and Mary Marsh closed the bar is loss of revenue since the drag performers who headlined the bar all quit less than a week after news broke of the owners’ racism.

Project Q Atlanta reported on the mass exodus:

The entertainers who perform in the weekly schedule of drag shows at Burkhart’s resigned on Thursday, just days after the popular Midtown gay bar became embroiled in controversy over racist social media posts.

The venue’s entertainment director, Phoenix, announced the resignations in a Facebook post.

Also on Thursday, Brigitte Bidet – the creator and headliner of Tossed Salad on Sundays – confirmed that the show is leaving Burkhart’s. The move ends a three-year run at the bar for Tossed Salad, which moved to Burkhart’s in January 2015.

Bidet told Project Q Atlanta that the decision to leave Burkhart’s was a difficult one that the performers struggled with for several days.

“At the end of the day we can only do what we feel is ethical, and our thoughts go to those still employed by Burkhart’s who are suffering because of the owners,” Bidet said.

“No matter how you did the equation, the money still went to Palmer and Mary. Their lack of interest in resolving the situation was too disturbing for any of us to look beyond that, no matter the cost or how it could affect our livelihood,” Bidet added.

Tossed Salad is moving to My Sister’s Room with the first show on Sunday, January 28, at 10 p.m.

In a separate announcement, performer  Angelica D’Paige also announced she would no longer be performing at Burkhart’s Pub:

I needed that job I need this job but last night I ended my employment with Burkhart’s Pub I can’t in good conscience stay in a place we’re not only the owner but some of the employees share the same views you may not call anyone a n***** is absolutely unnecessary and uncalled for if your argument is that it means ignorance or ignorant then use the word. we all have to make our own choices in life what is good for me may not be good for the other and vice versa. I would like to thank everyone for their amazing Support over the years I have become a different person in life and I won’t stand for unjust things I can’t and I won’t!!! But please continue to support me around the city I will be out just not there. I love and support all of my Drag sisters and like I said earlier we all have to make this choice for ourselves!

Following the resignation of entertainers, the community came together to support those who chose diversity and inclusion over financial security. Project Q Atlanta noted yesterday:

Two days later, on Jan. 27, several of the drag queens took part in a public forum to address the controversy and said the racism runs deeper than just the owners of Burkhart’s.

The entertainers formed Queens United and launched the Queens United Relief Fund and organized two upcoming benefit shows to raise funds to support the performers. The benefits include Queens United Benefit Show on Feb. 16 at Park Tavern (tickets) and Queens United at Out Front Theatre on March 18.

The scandal also prompted black LGBTQ activists to organize a bar and pub crawl on Feb. 3 that highlighted four black LGBTQ-owned businesses.

While the owners still proclaim they are not racist (repeatedly to several media outlets), tensions still existed after co-owner Mary Marsh lashed out at performers who chose to quit:

Project Q Atlanta added:

The venue’s general manager, Don Hunnewell, was fired on Feb. 3 and swatted back against allegations of complicity in the scandal in a Georgia Voice column.

Several of the entertainers have moved to other venues, including Tossed Salad being welcomed at My Sister’s Room, the Armorettes moving to Oscar’s and Phoenix – the former entertainment director – being hired by Ten to debut new shows at that venue on Wednesday.

For the moment, Burkhart’s Pub is permanently closed with no hopes of re-opening barring new ownership completely disconnected from the Marsh family.

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Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.

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