In Defense of McCoy’s: Don’t See the Bar for the Bigots

Boycotting One Establishment Will Do Nothing to Eliminate the Ignorance of a Few Individuals


Published: October 8, 2009

By this point, most of us have heard about the gay-bashing incident that recently happened outside of McCoy’s Bar on Ninth Avenue. The basic facts of the incident are simple: Local New York DJ Blake Hayes and two of his friends were physically attacked after a patron of the bar used a gay slur against them. The NYPD arrived on the scene and failed to file charges against the attacker. After the police left, the attacker was allowed to reenter the bar.

Though the actual facts of the altercation are cut and dry—the McCoy’s patron was completely in the wrong—our reactions as a community are what make the issue more complex. I’ve heard a variety of solutions in the days since the assault. Some people say we should ignore what happened because bigots never change, and others say that we should boycott McCoy’s for condoning said bigot’s actions. Frankly, the NYPD and McCoy’s as a whole aren’t the problem; it’s the ignorant individuals that happened to be a part of them.

As a regular customer of McCoy’s, I have never experienced any type of homophobia in the establishment, neither by means of actively taking part in anti-gay actions nor by condoning those of others. That said, we can’t blame the bar for an isolated incident with one of its patrons. This one individual responsible for perpetrating the attack is the one we should blame. When it comes to effecting change on an issue, isn’t it necessary to be sure that our reactions are actually targeted at the offenders?

Being angry at McCoy’s or the NYPD isn’t going to solve anything; the random person who committed this crime is to blame and he is the one who should have to pay for it. Not purchasing a drink at the bar isn’t going to change anybody’s mind about the gay community.  While it is important to use negative situations to raise awareness about prejudice, we shouldn’t waste our energy in perpetuating negativity by waging a vendetta against a business just because it happened to be the backdrop for a terrible crime.

Even Blake Hayes, one of the victims of the assault, has posted a statement on his Web site in support of the local haunt, saying, “I spoke with the owner of McCoy’s, the bar outside of which this incident occurred.  They are cooperating with police and very frustrated about the incident… He has urged that he is a friend of the gay community, and wants everyone to know he welcomes everyone to his bar.” Hayes also mentioned on his site that the NYPD has been pursuing charges of assault in the third degree against the offending persons since City Council Speaker Quinn’s statement demanding an investigation. We all should take a cue from his attitude and focus on positivity and raising awareness of an issue, not needlessly trashing an establishment.

More than anything, this is an opportunity to examine what we do when we find prejudice in everyday life. When we fight back, are we directing our actions toward rectifying the issue, or just fostering more negativity by pursuing a virtually useless vendetta against an organization?

Recently, rapper 50 Cent was criticized for homophobic comments he made in reference to Kanye West and Lady Gaga’s now cancelled tour. 50 Cent also happens to be part-owner of Vitamin Water. Does that mean that we should stop buying Vitamin Water to send a message to 50 Cent that homophobic comments aren’t acceptable? Of course not. It’s the same concept; boycotting a product, service or venue that is so far removed from a negative incident causes nothing but more negativity. Wouldn’t we all be better off focusing our attention on remedying the problem right at its source?

At the end of the day, there are prejudiced individuals in every organization. It shouldn’t be our mission to attack the groups that these bigoted individuals happen to belong to. Otherwise, there might be nothing left for us to buy and nowhere left for us to frequent. And the bigots would still be there. Appalling things happen every day. Use this situation as a catalyst for change—not by boycotting McCoy’s, but by actively promoting awareness about prejudice in the gay community.