Manager Says Fieldens Is For Everyone. Clubgoers Say Otherwise.
Update 4/7 @ 2 p.m.: GayRVA just received the following e-mail from Fielden’s President Mike Love:
“Saturday night’s reopening didn’t not go as well as planned, the new management did the best they could given the circumstances. I assure you; however, there are two sides to every story. At the moment it seems that incidences that happed Saturday night are being overwhelmed by our own “community” prejudice, instead of being worked out appropriately.
I have been working hard on a statement. At this point I have been advised to hold off on any further comments until the real facts come to light. Until then, current members can contact Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock, PLC with concerns about Membership Rules. Anyone directly involved in any of the problems of Saturday night can also contact Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock, PLC to speak to current management. Everyone else needs to take a step back, let the real facts come out, quit gossiping, and not let emotions rule over reason.
Gary O’Neeley was appalled when he left Fieldens on Saturday night.
“I was literally kicked out of the club for some dude kissing me,” he said. “I was told that this was ‘simulating sex,’ while on and around the dance floor heterosexual couples were bumpin’ and grindin’, making out, feeling each other up, and just being cheap!”
GayRVA spoke with new general manager Brad Sittler today. Sittler previously managed Paper Moon and is now in charge of operations at Fieldens. Although limited on what he could say without his legal team, he expects to release a statement later this week.
According to Sittler, a handful of people were warned several times before being asked to leave for disorderly conduct. He said straight or gay, people were treated the same way and previous management let inappropriate behavior slide for years.
Fieldens is now operated by Bentley Restaurant Enterprises. According to an article in this week’s Style Weekly, part-owner of Bentley, Frazier Boyd, also owns the Paper Moon strip clubs.
When asked if the club would be catering to the gay community, Sittler said it would it would be an establishment for everyone.
Many did not feel welcome Saturday night.
O’Neeley said heavy security hovered around gay clientele. Fieldens member Justin White experienced the same. After hearing other patrons were removed from the club, White rounded up people from the downstairs bar and took them to the main dance floor to test the waters.
“We start getting closer to each other. At that point, I realized there were three of the tall bouncers surrounding only us,” White said. “They were watching us in an eight-foot radius, so it was kind of obvious.”
Member Paul Major was told that he was dancing too close to a security guard.
“Every 30 seconds, they would weave through the dance floor to see if anything was going on,” Major said.
“I don’t care if it’s now a straight club or not,” he said. “The way they were treating members and the way they were treating the gay community is not the way I would expect straight people to be treated if they came into one of our bars.”
Fieldens president Mike Love did not return requests for an interview, but did speak with Style Weekly:
Love says he’s devoted to the business, but was left with no choice. The club-going gay community has gone more mainstream over the years, and taken its money along. Membership has dropped well below 600 and weekend nights averaged fewer than 100 guests. After pouring his own money into the business, he says he had no choice but to hand over management.
“I just find it funny that people are concerned about it now,” he says. Members were distressed to find that the entrance fee and drink prices had increased. “It’s kind of spiraled into gossip and rumor and B.S.,” Love says.
Major said things quickly got chaotic on Saturday.
“Everyone was looking to get kicked out instead of seeing what was going to happen. I think everyone went a little nuts,” he said.
In response to his experience, O’Neeley created a Facebook group which has garnered over 380 members as of posting.
White has been posting on the group discussion board and hopes to find legal council to look into the club’s contracts and membership bylaws. The club was established as a 501c7 non-profit.
“The entire purpose of the 501c7 is for common or like-minded people to gather together,” he said. “In a sense, that’s what Fieldens is about. Now, we’ve been alienated even though we own the club. We just didn’t have voting rights because we signed away our simple majority. That club is not only owned by us, but we are the club.”
While Major is not happy with the changes, he says it’s his choice to go back or not.
“It’s never going to be the Fieldens it was.”
This week we’re recapping the top stories of 2010. Stanley Moreira, Managing Editor for GayRVA.com, shares his picks for the year’s biggest stories.December 28, 2010
- Top 5 Most Popular Stories of 2010, December 27, 2010
- Who Knows Who Best?, April 21, 2010
- Video: McDonnell’s Transgender Former Brother-in-Law Publicly Speaks Out,
- Missing Charlottesville transgender woman’s case changed to homicide
- Federal judge rules in favor of discriminated gay man but not how you might think
- Diversity Richmond to host first Drag Bingo and afterparty event this Friday
- HEAL LLC creates a ‘soft spot to land’ for LGBTQ women of color with ‘The Healing Journey’
- Pioneering Virginia-born LGBTQ activist and biologist Dr. Walter Sheppe has past away