Boston Beer Co. has pulled out of the city’s huge St. Patrick’s Day parade due to organizers placing restrictions on LGBT veterans wishing to march. The beer company, which is owned by billionaire Jim Koch and produces the popular Sam Adams beer, was going to be the parade sponsor until it canceled yesterday.
The decision to not participate in the parade comes after pressure was applied to the Boston Beer Co. by a popular local restaurant. Club Cafe, an icon in the city’s LGBT community for more than 30 years, announced a few days ago that they would no longer be serving Sam Adams brew in their establishment in protest of the failure to properly include LGBT individuals in the parade.
Club Cafe posted an open letter discussing why it would no longer be serving the beer until either “parade organizers change their position, or Sam Adams removes its support of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” The letter, penned by longtime owner of Club Cafe Frank Ribaudo and manager Jim Morgrage, notes the disappointment they feel over the gay community’s continued exclusion from the popular Boston parade.
The restauranteurs state that in a city as diverse as Boston, where LGBT firefighters, police force and military “put their lives on the line for ALL BOSTONIANS,” a problem like this should not exist. They allege that for years the organizers have used the parade as a means of discrimination and exclusion of the LGBT community. “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 letter threatened.
It was this letter that further influenced the Boston Beer Co. to drop out of the parade. MassEquality, a gay rights advocacy group in Massachusetts, had been in talks with the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council about letting 20 LGBT veterans march in the parade. A court ruling in 1995 stated that the group could decide on the their inclusion or exclusion itself.
While the council welcomes all veterans to march, they denied MassEquality’s request to let some veterans carry banners, signs and clothing concerning their sexual identity. The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council released a statement, saying that they are approached by all types of organizations, “some of which try to destroy the integrity of not only this parade, but our faith, this town, and our country.”
Philip Wuschke, parade organizer, said in an interview that the parade should not be focused on sexual orientation, and that “they have parades for that. [We] must maintain out guidelines to insure the enjoyment and public safety of our spectators.”
In a statement released by Boston Beer Co., the company said they had hopes that the two groups would be able to work out an agreement. “We realize this may not be possible,” a rep for the company stated. The company is on the side of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who has recently announced, after trying to intervene in negotiations, that while he will be participating in many of the day’s events, he will not be marching in the parade.
Sam Adams saw a 2 percent decline in sales midweek before the Boston beer company decided to pull out of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which sees over 1 million spectators every year. The parade will take place Sunday at 1 p.m. in South Boston.
By Nathan Rohenkohl