Oakland LGBTQ Port Bar vandalized overnight, co-owner says

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday October 4, 2023
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The windows of Oakland's Port Bar were apparently shot through with what police called "weights" early Wednesday morning. Photo: Courtesy Sean Sullivan
The windows of Oakland's Port Bar were apparently shot through with what police called "weights" early Wednesday morning. Photo: Courtesy Sean Sullivan

The sun came up over Oakland's Port Bar this morning with its two front windows and glass entrance door apparently shot through in what its co-owner believes was an intentional act.

"Someone shot out all the windows to the Port Bar this morning," Sean Sullivan, a gay man who is the co-owner of the popular downtown Oakland watering hole, told the Bay Area Reporter October 4. "The police said it appears intentional."

The bar is located at 2023 Broadway. Sullivan stated in a text "this only happened to the Port Bar. Like not even the empty storefront next door."

Oakland police told the B.A.R. October 5 that "officers determined there are no known threats or issues to suggest a hate crime at this time."

Paul Chambers, the strategic communications manager for the Oakland Police Department, stated that the communications division "received a report of a possible shooting."

"When officers arrived, they learned that the windows of the business had been damaged by rocks being thrown at the windows," he stated.

Sullivan said the police told him the windows were shot through with what appeared to be lead bullet "weights," or metal projectiles.

The bar opened in 2016, and features popular drag events, as well as dancing. It serves as an anchor for a nascent but growing LGBTQ scene in the neighborhood, an alternative to San Francisco's Castro and South of Market mainstays.

"We are devastated," Sullivan said. "Our staff work hard to provide a welcoming, safe space to our beautiful LGBT community and to have this happen now with so much going on in our community is just heartbreaking."

Sullivan created a GoFundMe on October 4 after "so many nice people asked if they could help," he stated. The fundraiser, which has a goal of $10,000, had raised $14,297 as of October 10. Sullivan was grateful, stating via Facebook, "Thank you everyone for your generous support! These are challenging times but knowing how much everyone cares about The Port Bar means so very much."

The Oakland LGBTQ Community Center issued a statement of its own via Instagram on Wednesday.

"It is with a heavy heart that we share with our followers and LGBTQ+ community that @theportbar, one of the oldest queer bars in Oakland, was targeted for violence this morning," the center stated. "We do not have any more details about this incident but encourage people to reach out to the owners @theportbar for more information and to show your support."

The LGBTQ center, located near Lake Merritt, had its own windows broken in June 2020 in an act of vandalism that police called a hate crime, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

Lesbian Oakland at-large City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan issued a statement October 5.

"The Port Bar is a place of refuge for countless LGBTQ people to find community and feel safe to be and express their true selves," Kaplan stated. "While we don't yet know the motivations of this attack, targeted violence against LGBTQ people and places is rising, fueled by anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation. Unfortunately, Oakland is not immune to this.

"While we work to advance public safety solutions for everyone, as a xity and a community we must also condemn these attacks wherever they occur, unite to support the Port Bar as they repair and recover, and reaffirm our commitment to uplifting and protecting LGBTQ rights and spaces," she added.

Sullivan, who helped organize the city's Pride festivities just weeks ago, was asked by the B.A.R. at that time about violence in the Bay Area in general and Oakland in particular as concerns over crime reach a fever pitch.

"We wish it was safer. ... I would say it's difficult day-to-day — I still struggle," Sullivan said at that time. "Criminals who break windows don't care if they are breaking an LGBTQ person's car window or a heterosexual person's car window, but that's on both sides of the bay. It gets situated in Oakland, but it's the same as downtown San Francisco, and other parts of San Francisco, but LGBTQ people are undaunted and we will not let unfortunate incidents stop us from celebrating queer joy."

There've been a number of criminal incidents against Bay Area queer bars recently; on Tuesday the B.A.R. reported about break-ins in San Francisco's Castro and SOMA neighborhoods.

Last week, the B.A.R. reported about vandalism at the Cinch Saloon on Polk Street, and last month following Pride in San Jose the Splash Video Dance Bar had to temporarily close due to vandalism.

Updated, 10/5/23: This article has been updated with comments from City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan and the Oakland Police Department.

Updated, 10/10/23 This article has been updated with information on the GoFundMe campaign.

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