Volume 80, Number 40 | March 3 - 9, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Continental is picketed again; ‘Neutral’ meeting site sought
By Jefferson Siegel
Last Saturday night saw the third protest in as many months at the East Village’s Continental bar. The protests, organized by the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition, are critical of what they claim is the bar’s racist door policy.
As they did at the last two protests, ANSWER members passed out a flier outlining their criticisms of the bar. Not to be outdone, bar owner Trigger, who lately has been giving his last name as “Smith,” had his own nine-page handouts, the first page of which was a determination from the city’s Commission on Human Rights dismissing an earlier complaint against the bar.
Referring to a customer who claimed to have been denied entry to the bar in July 2008, the commission found the Continental has “black customers and ha[s] evidently denied entry to white or light skinned customers, not just black customers.”
The bar still has another complaint outstanding, filed after a group of black women claim they were denied entry to the bar last summer.
Another page in Trigger’s handout declares, “Continental has a dress code — not a color code.”
And as at the last two protests, once demonstrators began their chants of “Continental, can’t you see? Change your racist policies!” Trigger walked over to the dozen people holding signs and waved his hands as if conducting their calls.
And again, as at the last two protests, Trigger and Jinnette Caceres, an ANSWER organizer, found grounds for disagreement.
“You want [multicultural] theme nights?” Trigger said to Caceres. “You’re out of your mind!” One of the group’s three demands is for the bar to hold multicultural theme nights.
“Would a sane person ask for this?” Trigger persisted.
“We’re willing to finish this campaign whenever he’s willing to come to a bargaining table,” Caceres retorted. “We’re not expecting him to meet all three demands. We want him to be willing to bargain and to talk about the three demands.”
The group’s other two demands include a nondiscrimination policy statement on the bar’s Web site, as well as diversity training for all management, staff and Trigger.
As the hour-long protest continued, it appeared to do little to slow the influx of thirsty patrons looking to partake of Continental’s offer of five shots of anything for $10.
A reporter noticed black people in the bar, including one man dressed in combat fatigues with his date.
“I’m paying an enormous rent,” Trigger said. “I don’t want to turn any paying customers away. I would fire a bouncer if he discriminated against anybody.”
As the protest would down, Caceres said ANSWER was lining up two possible neutral locations for a meeting. Trigger said, once he was notified of the location, date and time, he would be willing to sit down with the group.