The Q was supposed to be one of New York's most inclusive LGBTQ nightclubs. Employees are accusing it of racism and transphobia.
- The Q billed itself as one of New York City's most inclusive LGBTQ nightclubs.
- But a recent lawsuit by a former owner alleges a toxic environment rife with racism and transphobia.
The Q was meant to be a revolutionary space of celebration and inclusivity for New York City's LGBTQ community.
The nightclub was the brainchild of Frankie Sharp, Bob Fluet, and Allan Pikus, three event producers with long histories in the nightlife scene.
"I wanted to create a safe space not in the sometimes trite sense we see the term used, but a true and sacred space for all of our queer family to feel safe enough for freedom, fun, and cathartic self-expression," Sharp said in an emailed statement to Insider. "I wanted to build an antidote for the Trump era. I wanted to build all of us a home."
Backed by celebrity investors like Billy Porter and Zachary Quinto, the four-story nightclub opened to great fanfare in Hell's Kitchen in 2021. It garnered rave reviews and swiftly became one of the city's hottest gay nightclubs.
The Q emphasizes on its website that it provides an "affirming, welcoming space for all to enjoy," where "violent rhetoric or action, non-consensual touching, or any form of racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, sizeist, ageist, ableist, conduct will not be tolerated."
But the image of an inclusive mecca was shattered when Sharp sued his two partners, Fluet and Pikus, alleging a toxic environment at The Q.
The lawsuit alleges Pikus used racist and transphobic language
In his lawsuit filed in New York's Supreme Court in June, Sharp said he was wrongfully terminated after bringing employee complaints and personal concerns about Pikus to Fluet, as first reported by Instinct Magazine.
Pikus frequently used racist and bigoted language, according to the complaint and former employees.
"Make sure your Latin nights are the good kind of Latins. Not Blatinos," Pikus allegedly told Sharp multiple times.
He also allegedly told a candidate for bar manager, "I don't need to break my back to hire people just because they're Black or trans," per the complaint.
The lawsuit also claims that Pikus allegedly said "he wanted special measures taken against customers that 'looked like they were from the Bronx.'"
Former employees say there was a lack of diversity at The Q
Former employees said there was a serious lack of diversity among The Q's staff because of Pikus' sentiments, NPR reported. One former employee said there was only one Black bartender and no Black managers during her nearly year-long tenure there.
Another former general manager who was responsible for hiring bar staff, Forrest Wu, said he was "frequently reprimanded" for trying to hire a more diverse group of employees. Instead, he was "encouraged to put white male bartenders" in prominent spots in the club."
"I got pushback from placing femme and [bartenders of color] at locations the owners deemed too prominent, under the pretense that 'that wasn't what guests wanted to see,'" Wu told NPR.
Sharp told Insider there was "almost comical turnover" in managers during the first year of operation.
"We all learned to deal with it because Bob [Fluet] was the controlling partner and he wouldn't do anything about it," Sharp said over email. "I'm embarrassed to admit that his emotional manipulation was effective — for a short time. But in the end I could not remain silent."
The lawsuit also contains allegations that The Q allowed underage drinking and sexual misconduct.
Neither Pikus not Fluet responded to a request for comment.
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