South End Bar Drops Sam Adams Over Southie St. Patrick’s Day Sponsorship

Club Café is "very disappointed" with the beverage company.

As the back-and-forth conversation continues about whether or not gay rights advocates and gay veterans will be able to finally march in the annual South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, an area restaurant is taking a stand against some of the supporters of the holiday festivities.

On Thursday, the South End’s Club Café wrote a public letter and posted it to their Facebook page blasting Samuel Adams beer for being one of the many sponsors of the controversial parade.

“Club Café is very disappointed that Sam Adams does not understand that the organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade continue to demonstrate that they do not respect LGBT Irish Americans by excluding LGBT members of this community from openly marching in the St.Patrick’s Day Parade,” Club Café owners Frank Ribaudo and Jim Morgrage wrote, adding that they would be pulling the beer from their establishment until Sam Adams backed out of sponsoring the event, or the event organizers agreed to allow people from the LGBTQ community to openly march in the parade.

The fight to make the parade inclusive for everyone in Boston, including gay rights groups, has been ongoing since 1995. It was then that a Supreme Court Ruling sided with the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council—the parade’s organizers—allowing them to exclude gays, lesbians, and any other group that doesn’t conform to their strict parade guidelines.

The court ruling and Allied War Veterans Council’s decision to block people from the gay community from walking with them through South Boston while waving flags has kept elected officials from joining the annual celebration in the past.

For weeks leading up to this year’s event, Mayor Marty Walsh has been trying to forge a compromise between the heads of the parade and groups like MassEquality, to come up with a deal. But his efforts have fallen short.

With the exclusion still prevalent this year, Club Café put out their letter of disapproval, adding to the controversy by pinning some of the blame on parade sponsors until something changes.

“It is hard to understand how a community like Boston, where gay members of the police force, military and others have, and continue to, put there lives on the line for ALL BOSTONIAN’s, that organizers of the St.Patrick’s Day Parade feel it is just to discriminate against us as a community, and that Sam Adams does not take seriously the impact that their support of bigotry will have on their relationship to the LGBT community and their business,” the owners wrote.

The Boston Beer Company, which owns Sam Adams, responded to the accusations that the company was supporting an anti-gay event, adding that they have done a lot to back the gay community.

The statement said:

As a local business, supporting our Boston community is very important to us. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is just one of the hundreds of events and organizations we support in and around Boston. We provide charitable donations to organizations in South Boston and around the city that address critical needs including supporting the arts, the environment, building communities, veterans initiatives, youth leadership development, and addressing educational disparities, just to name a few. We also provide support for a number of organizations whose primary focus is supporting civil rights, the LGBT community, marriage equality, and the Boston Pride Parade.

The company said they will continue to evaluate their role as a sponsor of the event before making additional contributions down the line, but did not say if they were removing their name from this year’s march. “Our namesake, Samuel Adams, was a staunch defender of free speech and we support that ideal, so we take feedback very seriously,” the statement read.

Walsh said he would make one last push to try and bring the groups together, but if the effort fails, as it has for the last 20 years, gay veterans and LGBTQ activists will take part in their own celebration called the “Peace Parade,” which is organized by Veterans for Peace, and sponsored by Boston Pride.

While Club Café’s decision to cut off Sam Adams sends a clear message, it takes a different tone from a move they made over the summer when Russian officials passed a series of anti-gay laws. The bar continued to serve vodkas distributed by Russia, despite the fact that other gay bars in the South End stopped pouring the products. Club Café’s owners said they didn’t see how barring brands like Stolichnaya made any sense.