Boycott of Hunters is Called For by Some Transgender and Gays in Chicago

The Suburban Chicago gay bar Hunters Nightclub recently officially imposed a “new”  ID requirement that has several GLBTs—particularly transgender activists—up in arms.

The Elk Grove Village bar’s owners  have  implemented  a new policy that requires patrons to show a valid photo ID that matches their gender presentation. Therefore, if a person wants to enter Hunters in drag, his or her ID must match their current appearance. But Hunters says the rule isn’t exactly new, and they are just making sure they comply with local laws in order to keep their liquor license.

According to Hunters, the new policy was put in place to keep out transgender and cross-dressing prostitutes. Hunters manager Peter Landorf told the Chicago Tribune that the decision was made reluctantly after seeing Craigslist prostitution ads that mentioned Hunters. Management decided it was best to be strict about photo IDs in order to avoid potentially losing its liquor license.

Chicago Gender Society’s Katie Thomas told CFP  that the organization hasn’t taken much of a stand on the Hunters issue beyond telling people that “the law is the law.” Thomas said that she believes that Hunters is cracking down on IDs in order to maintain their liquor license and not for any other reason. In the meantime, she said, trans people can easily obtain a new ID. “Do what you’re supposed to do and get an ID,” Thomas advised.

MJ  from  One Voice Whispering in the Wind  blog  said in a recent post, “As many of you already know, this past Friday night I went to support a protest of Hunters Nightclub. A lot of people were asking me what brought on this protest. I very quickly explain to them about the discrimination of my fellow Transgender brothers and sisters.”

About 40 some people showed up this past weekend for a protest at the bar…”Well the night turned out like this: There were over forty people out on Friday night standing in the freezing cold parking lot waiting to challenge the new policy at Hunters. As we all made our way into the bar, two of us were turned away. The remaining people who were able to make it into the bar, were asked to leave the bar about an hour later. To clarify on this part a little; we were asking the manager about the policy and why they allowed some of us in and not others and next thing I know we were being asked to leave.

I can not comment on what was being said between our organizers and the management at Hunters for I was not there for the whole conversation. I just know that after we were asked to leave, most of us braved the cold temperatures outside because Patrick Volkert, a manager at Hunters, agreed to talk to us. We all waited for him to come out and talk to us. When he finally did come out, he would only talk to the group organizer. So the rest of us waited in the parking lot, talking and sharing stories until the meeting was done.

When the meeting was over we were told that our demand that Hunters repeal the policy was denied and so we decided to boycott Hunters.”

Chicago Gender Society’s Katie Thomas added that there are a lot of trans women who have gotten into Hunters without a problem because staff recognize them.

“It’s not that they don’t want trans girls here,” Thomas said.

On a Friday or Saturday night, patrons said there are typically a dozen or more men at the bar dressed as women. Most are just trying to be themselves. They go out  “in costume”  and  live most of their daily lives as men.

But now a whole can of worms has been opened. The bar,  could now have an additional problem on its hands. As of 2006, state law prohibits any establishment open to the public from discriminating against people based on gender identity.

Equality Illinois political director Rick Garcia told CFP that the organization has known about the situation at Hunters for “a while.”

Garcia said that Equality Illinois already spoke with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and hopes to talk to Hunters owner Mike Hunter shortly. The statewide GLBT organization hopes that they can sit down with Hunters management and come up with a solution that protects both transgender patrons and the bar.

“We respect his desire to keep his business safe and legal,” Garcia said. “But in protecting the business, you can’t also harm innocent people.”

Hunters declined to comment in the Chicago Tribune recently.