‘Huge mistake’: Langley brewery apologizes for cancelling ‘polarizing’ drag bingo

Click to play video: 'Brewery facing backlash after pulling plug on drag event in Langley'
Brewery facing backlash after pulling plug on drag event in Langley
A Langley brewery is facing backlash after cancelling an upcoming drag event saying it was too polarizing. The drag performer says she's devastated by the decision. As Kamil Karamali reports, the brewery owner is apologizing, saying he wants to do better – Aug 3, 2023

A brewery in Langley has apologized for the “hurt” it caused when it cancelled a drag bingo event floated for this month, having called it “polarizing.”

In an Instagram post, Lance Verhoeff, co-founder of Trading Post Brewing, said he was “truly sorry” for the decision, which he called a “huge mistake.”

“I want to apologize to our staff and to our guests for single-handedly making our space an unsafe space for the queer community,” he said in a video. “I’m going to work to become better, to learn more, to listen to my team and just try to be a better human.”

Click to play video: 'Langley brewery apologizes for cancelling ‘polarizing’ drag event'
Langley brewery apologizes for cancelling ‘polarizing’ drag event

In an interview, Verhoeff said he’s received a “decent amount of backlash” since then, takes “full responsibility” for his communication on the matter, and will “make this as right as possible.”

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He also said the drag bingo event was never firmly scheduled or confirmed.

Attempting to explain the decision to drop it, he said: “We didn’t want to feel like we needed to host ongoing drag events to continue to be an ally. That said, that was a decision we made and now we’re going to be consulting with a variety of stakeholders, staff, LGBTQ community members and organizations to figure out what the next steps are forward.”

Click to play video: '2023 Vancouver Pride Week events'
2023 Vancouver Pride Week events

The drag bingo event was supposed to be hosted by Scarlett Rosé, who posted in her own Instagram story this week that she was told it had been cancelled for being “too polarizing.”

“It’s frustrating to hear this sort of thing because I am always willing to work with a company to help create queer representation for them,” she wrote.

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“So to be told it’s too polarizing is pretty shitty. It seems what was really being said is it’s convenient to create a safe space one month of the year when it’s beneficial for you … but for the rest of the year, sucks to be gay!!”

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In a Friday interview with Global News, Rosé countered Verhoeff’s claims that the event was never firmly scheduled. She said she was quite under the impression all had decided on Aug. 18 after a meeting with Trading Post’s event coordinator.

Rosé further said the word “polarizing” implies something negative and she doesn’t feel her art is “negative in any way.”

“The moment you have any pushback you say, ‘Oh, cancel the event,'” she told Global News, frustrated. “I just feel like there wasn’t any education behind that decision.”

Click to play video: 'Pride Week celebrated at Vancouver City Hall'
Pride Week celebrated at Vancouver City Hall

Trading Post has previously hosted drag bingo. In May in particular, it hosted an ‘All For Pride Weekend,’ that included drag bingo, a drag show and karaoke, and music from 2SLGBTQIA+ artists.

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That event was branded on its website as “a celebration of all things LGBTQ+, run by and for the community,” encouraging participants to raise “a toast to diversity, inclusivity, and community.” It also raised funds to help create safe queer spaces at Trinity Western University.

“Trading Post has been a safe space and an ally to the queer community for many years and we continue to take that stance,” Verhoeff told Global News.

In a written statement on Trading Post’s Instagram, Verhoeff had said the decision to discontinue drag bingo “lacked the perspective of the community that would be affected.”

“My choice of words, describing drag events as ‘polarizing,’ was ill-considered and insensitive,” he wrote.

“As a business, I believed it would be in Trading Post’s best interest to take a neutral position, not realizing this neutrality is the same as standing aside for hate and discrimination to win. I did not consider how these actions would be perceived.”

Rosé said she accepts Trading Post’s apology, believing it to be the “mistake” of one individual, and Verhoeff has since reached out to her privately.

“That’s a first step. That’s a baby step and there’s like, 100 metres left to go. I accept that portion, I just have a clause with — if there is no follow up to that, if there’s no repercussion on making things better, then I don’t accept that.”

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Click to play video: 'Cooking Together: Pride Brunch Ideas'
Cooking Together: Pride Brunch Ideas

Meanwhile, Michael Robach of Qmunity, a queer, trans and Two-Spirit resource centre, said Pride is both a celebration and a responsibility, particularly for businesses that uphold it.

“It’s so important for companies, if they signal that they’re inclusive for queer people, that they back that up, that they’re able to sort of commit themselves to creating spaces that they operate for queer people to access in ways they feel safe,” he explained.

“So when a business pulls out of that, or when there’s a sort of a change in direction or in value around Pride, that’s a scary thing because you’ve let people in, you’ve told them that it’s safe for them to be there, and when you take that away, it just sort of creates a little bit of concern for the people accessing those spaces.”

Click to play video: 'Whitecaps 10th anniversary Pride match'
Whitecaps 10th anniversary Pride match

Nearby, the Vancouver Pride Festival is underway.

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Earlier this week, Vancouver Pride Society co-chair Justin Khan said it’s a time to raise awareness and allies as disturbing stories of homophobia and transphobia increasingly make headlines in Canada and the United States.

“Allies just need to show up. They need to be present to protect our communities, to celebrate our communities, and really just to stand alongside,” he told Global News on Monday.

“I think there’s a really great opportunity for that to happen at this year’s parade and festival. I saw it last year and I’m excited to see it even bigger this year.”

According to Statistics Canada, hate crimes against the 2SLGBTQ+ community have also increased, with those targeting sexual orientation spiking 64 per cent between 2019 and 2021.

Symbols of Pride — including crosswalks and flags — have recently been defaced in a number of B.C. cities. Events involving drag performers, including summer camps and library readings, have become a particular target.

— with files from Kamil Karamali

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