Kite’s Grille and Bar in Aggieville was at the center of controversy last week, when a Facebook post accused the bar of discrimination.
The post alleged that Kite’s called the police on a transgender woman for using the women’s bathroom. The woman, who goes by Valaree Love, was then escorted from the premises and talked to by Riley County Police Department officers. Love’s post resulted in an influx of negative Kite’s reviews on the internet and social media.
Since then, RCPD has released body cam footage from a camera worn by the officer involved in the incident. The footage shows the officer talking to Love outside of Kite’s.
In the footage, the officer notified Love that he was called to the bar because Love had a lifetime ban from Kite’s and that by being there, Love was trespassing. The officer can be seen holding a card that reads “criminal trespass advisory” in the footage. Upon being asked (by an off-screen individual) if Love was being arrested for being transgender, the officer replied “No, but she can be arrested for trespassing.”
The officer then told Love that he would not arrest Love for trespassing at the request of Kite’s.
“I’m not going to take you to jail tonight,” he said in the footage. “They don’t want you to go to jail, they just want you out of their bar.”
Love claims she never harassed anyone in the Kite’s bathroom, and wondered if she was banned because “someone on staff that didn’t like me” and that they “might have told the management a different story to get me kicked out.”
Wilson maintained that both Kite’s and Rusty’s have “never stopped a transgender person from using the restroom they want to use.”
“Between Kite’s and Rusty’s, we have 7 unisex bathrooms that anyone – male, female, transgender – can use,” he said. “Everyone is welcome.”
Love said that she was only aware of one unisex bathroom at Kite’s, which is located outside.
“Every time we’re directed to that bathroom, it’s locked and you have to go get someone to come unlock it for you,” Love said.
Kite’s also published an official statement about the incident on Twitter: “Transgender customers are welcome to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity … Any customer displaying any act of disrespect, or placing other patrons or employees in danger, will be removed from the premises.”
In regard to the events that have occurred this week.
& as always, Go Cats, Go Kites! pic.twitter.com/ybYcfZLgIS
— Kite's & Rusty's (@KansasStateBars) June 8, 2016
Breanna Nechols, board member of the Flint Hills Human Rights Project and a transgender woman, said that though she had heard of past discriminatory problems at Kite’s and other bars, this particular incident didn’t appear to be discrimination.
“It was hard to know exactly the whole story,” Nechols said. “Though we initially took some heat for not responding very quickly to what had happened, we decided that it would be best to approach the situation with skepticism, and after information like the body cam footage from the RCPD was released, we’re glad we did.”
Nechols explained that the draft ordinance for chapter 10 of the Manhattan Code of Ordinances, which seeks to protect against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, would have prevented the situation from evolving like it did.
“If the motive behind this was pure discrimination, the draft ordinance would help to alleviate that in the future,” she said. “It would give an avenue to investigate and figure out a better idea of what happened.”
Nechols also pointed out that this could be beneficial to businesses facing accusations of discrimination, such as Kite’s.
“One of the benefits of the ordinance is that it puts an actual process for these claims in place,” she said. “It allows them to be properly investigated, instead of just blowing up on social media and causing hysteria over what turned out to be a common incident – someone being removed for trespassing.”
Wilson said he’s offered to meet face-to-face with Love multiple times to speak about the incident.
“I’d still like to speak with her about what happened,” he said. “I’m very easy to get a hold of.”