By Terrance Turner
On the evening of Sept. 1, I met some friends at JR’s Bar and Grill. After fraternizing at JR’s, we visited The Eagle and then, a couple hours later, returned to JR’s. Aware of the club’s no-bag policy, I placed my bag inside the OutSmart Magazine kiosk that was located in front of the building. I tried to act discreetly, but I was evidently spotted by the security guards. It did occur to me that management might take issue with this storage, but why would they? After all, I was complying with their policy.
I re-entered the club and spent time on the patio with my friends, drinking and talking. I was later confronted by the manager of JR’s, who told me that he needed to speak with me outside. I complied and walked out onto the sidewalk.
“We don’t allow you to stash your bag on the property,” he said. “We’re gonna have to ask you to leave.” Shocked and confused, I asked why I had to leave. He reiterated that I wasn’t supposed to have stored my bag on the property (even though JR’s has NO receptacles for people to store their bags). I informed my friends of this, and they, too, exited the club’s back patio.
As I went to retrieve my things, I learned that my bag was no longer where I had stored it. I was told that a bomb squad had been called regarding the bag and that it had been moved. Angered by the theft of my property, I tried to remain calm and calmly protest my treatment. I stressed to the manager that I meant no harm to him or any patrons in the club. “I understand,” he said.
The manager and I walked to a parking lot, where I discovered my bag had been hidden behind a large potted plant. Inside the bag, I had a variety of items that posed no threat: pencils, pens, a small notebook, a large reusable water bottle, paperwork, and a small blue toiletry bag. Inside it were personal items: a USB charging cable, a black electric outlet plug, a Pocket Juice portable phone charger, lens cleaner solution, lens towelettes, lip balms, lotion, and insect repellent.
I left the club with my friends and went to dinner at nearby Velvet Taco. I spent most of the dinner trying to understand why I had been treated like a dangerous criminal. One of my friends recalled that he had forgotten to close his tab and had to return to the club. “I’m not going back to JR’s,” I said firmly. But eventually, I was coaxed into accompanying him (and my friends) back to the club. To avoid being further criminalized and humiliated, I hung my bag from a fence post in a nearby undisclosed location. We were allowed into the club without incident. Thankfully, the rest of the night proceeded in a relatively enjoyable fashion. But five days later, the sting of injustice still lingers.
I understand the club management’s concerns about security in the wake of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. More recently (and closer to home), the mass shootings at Odessa and El Paso have left many Texans on edge. I am completely understanding of the need for security precautions. What I don’t understand is why I was humiliated so needlessly.
I don’t expect an apology or refund from the club. What I do expect, however, is for JR’s management to be more accommodating of its patrons. Many of them come to the club on foot, via Uber, or fresh off the #82 Metro bus (like I did that night). Not everyone can store their things at home or in a friend’s car. And not everyone feels comfortable showing up empty-handed to a club. Where are the bag checkers? Where are the security scanners? Where are the lockers or receptacles for customers to store bags? Something needs to be done on behalf of customers who don’t have cars or convenient methods of storage.
In the meantime, however, I am writing to warn people so that they don’t have to endure what I did. JR’S BAR AND GRILL HAS A STRICT NO-BAG POLICY. You CANNOT stash your bag on the property. If you do, your belongings will be subject to theft, and you will be publicly humiliated and asked to leave. You’ve been warned.