Fire Ravages Historic Lesbian Bar, Authorities Dismiss Hate Crime Theory Despite Significant Loss

One of the last lesbian bars in the United States was attacked by an arsonist in late October. Authorities say it wasn’t a hate crime, but not everyone is so sure. Here is the full story.

Something Lost Along the Way

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The LGBTQ+ movement has gained steam in national media in recent years, leading to an increased awareness of the issues these groups face.

But at the same time, a part of their past has been dying off.

Not Many Left

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According to a post to the Gossip Grill Instagram account, the San Diego bar by the same name is “one of the last remaining Queer Women’s bars in the country.”

They say the lesbian bar is a dying breed.

Raising the Alarms

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That dwindling social scene made the events that occurred in the early morning hours of October 20 all the more alarming.

Up in Flames

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At about 12:30 am, two fires erupted on the exterior of the bar. Both of the establishment’s patios – one for smokers, one for non-smokers – went up in flames.

No Lasting Damage

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Thankfully, owner Moe Girton told local radio station KPBS, the building itself wasn’t damaged. “Thanks to our amazing fire department and how quickly they got here,” she said.

A Price to Pay

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Still, the Gossip Grill didn’t escape unscathed, sustaining about $10,000 worth of damage on and around the patios, according to SDC News.

‘Intentional and Arson’

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That initial Instagram post also pleaded for help from the public in trying to figure out who attacked the restaurant. “It was intentional and was arson,” the post read.

No Hate Involved?

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While the undertones of that post and early chatter among reports and social media users pegged the fire as a hate crime, officials say that’s not necessarily the case.

They Knew This Guy

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After watching surveillance videos of the scene, Gossip Grill employees quickly identified the suspect.

He was a man who had once worked at an establishment also owned by Girton.

He Won’t Get Away With It

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Later on October 20, San Diego police arrested a 38-year-old man on charges of arson and using an accelerant.

Absent from his list of charges was anything to do with a hate crime.

Polite and Harmless…Except for the Arson Thing

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According to SDC News, those former coworkers and Girton described the man as “polite and harmless.”

But they also said he had battled mental health issues and had been homeless at various times.

Shocking News

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Even so, Girton said she was shocked to hear that one of her former bartenders was suspected of the arson attack against the Gossip Grill.

Investigation Not Over

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San Diego police say the investigation of the fires is still ongoing, and they hope to gain some insight into the man’s motives as that work unfolds.

Not Motivated by Hate

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As of a few days after the arson, though, both the cops and Girton were adamant that they don’t suspect the man was motivated by a hatred for the LGBTQ+ community.

A Place to Be Real

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For her part, Girton has emphasized in follow-up interviews and posts that the damage was minimal and Gossip Grill will continue to be a fun, safe place for women to come and be themselves.

The post Fire Ravages Historic Lesbian Bar, Authorities Dismiss Hate Crime Theory Despite Significant Loss first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Rainer Fuhrmann. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.

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