Michael O’Brien, a 40-year-old esthetician student, and fourth generation Fort Lauderdale native went out with his partner to meet friends at Blue Martini in their Galleria Mall location this past week. Michael, describes himself as carrying a mixture of masculine and feminine attributes. This also extends to fashion choices, which he does not follow according to what is deemed gender normative.

 

“I was wearing men’s clothes,” said O’Brien. “Yet, I was carrying my purse and wearing my sandals. The security guards looked at me funny, and rolled their eyes.”

The sandals were men’s, which revealed a pedicure of clean, neat, red toenails.

O’Brien was told no shorts, and no sandals after 8 p.m. or else no entry. However, O’Brien watched as women wearing sandals or open-toed shoes were allowed entry into the venue.

“Clearly,” said O’Brien. “They have a basis of gender discrimination in terms of dress code. Both the doorman and the manager came out to talk to me. They brought up lawyers first,” in an attempt to intimidate him.  “To which I countered, the LGBT community has plenty of lawyers!”

Eventually, O’Brien was admitted access to the club. However, they admitted him without an apology and made him feel as if they were, “doing me a favor by letting me in that night,” said O’Brien from his home in Northeast Fort Lauderdale.

Once he entered he expected to see the men all neatly dressed with proper shoes and slacks. However, he found many men in sandals and casual attire. Their position was that the happy hour crowd is often more casual, and while they cannot kick out those that came in earlier they can deny entry to people in the evening when the cress code is – supposedly – more strictly enforced.

Nikki Hatch, a 57-year-old post-operative trans woman typically goes to the Blue Martini’s Boca Raton location to sip a glass of wine and listen to the band.

“I typically go to the Blue Martini in Boca and they are always very nice and welcoming to me,” said Hatch. “Yet, a couple of years ago I was actually asked to leave by one of the waiters. I was sitting by myself when some idiot came up and whispered to me to leave. I asked ‘Why?’ and never got a reply other than ‘You just need to leave.’  I told him that I would leave when I was good and ready. This, of course, was before Broward County passed Gender Protections Ordinance.”

Hatch had another experience with a rude bartender and she complained to the manager, who was very apologetic about the situation.

“Honestly,” said Hatch. “That was really the only two times out of several times going there that I had any problems.”

The LGBT community knows when to fight their battles, and Hatch is honest in admitting the second incident might have just been a case of rude – not gender-specific discrimination.

“I heard of a couple of others,” who present as women in public, “who were asked for their ID and were told their presentation did not match their photo ID, pretty slick,” said Hatch. “Not sure if they are still pulling that stunt.”

Blue Martini Fort Lauderdale directed me to their corporate office. After defending the official position of Blue Martini in terms of dress code as it related to O’Brien’s case – namely that women are allowed to wear sandals, not a person who expresses themselves across gender lines – and apologizing for any possible blatant discrimination in Dane’s case, the representatives sharply refused to give me their names.

They then quickly said I was not given permission to quote, which is odd considering they were so eager to defend Blue Martini. Furthermore, they stated that Blue Martini “does not wish to appear in your paper” and that Blue Martini has “no comment.”


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