The exterior of Harry's in June, when the bar was boarded up during protests.
Hotel Harrington and Harry's Bar, a gathering place for far-right activists, will be temporarily closed during a pro-Trump rally scheduled for January 6, citing safety concerns.
"While we cannot control what happens outside of the hotel, we are taking additional steps to protect the safety of our visitors, guests, and employees," the century-old hotel said in a statement announcing that it will be closed January 4-6. Harry's said on its website that it will be closed January 5 and 6, without citing a reason. Attempts to reach a representative of the bar were unsuccessful.
This decision comes after the bar received multiple citations for violating D.C.'s COVID restrictions during weekends featuring large MAGA demonstrations, and incidents of violence occurred nearby.
Stabbings near Harry's after a pro-Trump rally on December 12 led to four hospitalizations, according to D.C. police. And that wasn't the first time in recent memory that the bar, which leases space from the hotel, has been in the spotlight.
D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration fined Harry's Bar $2,000 for violating coronavirus reopening restrictions during a November weekend when thousands of Trump supporters rallied in downtown D.C. An ABRA investigator observed multiple violations at the bar on two separate nights, including patrons without face coverings, people standing while drinking alcohol, and inadequate spacing between tables, per ABRA.
Before the election, President Donald Trump retweeted a video showing maskless patrons inside of Harry's, standing and drinking close to one another while chanting "Back the blue." That viral video, which appeared to show a number of COVID-related safety violations, led to an ABRA investigation. The bar also received a verbal warning in July.
During Trump's presidency, Harry's Bar in particular has been a place for members of the far-right to congregate, especially the Proud Boys, a group banned by Facebook and Instagram because of the company's policy against hate groups that describes themselves as "Western chauvinists." On July 4, 2019, D.C. police escorted members of the Proud Boys to Harry's after a clash in front of the White House. Proud Boys gatherings have been linked frequently to violence.
Harry's owner John Boyle told DCist earlier this month that the establishment welcomes all groups. "We don't ask people who they voted for or what kind of hat they're wearing," he said. "They walk in the door, we smile, and we seat them and serve them. We don't discriminate against anybody."
Still, the bar's link to the extremist group doesn't sit well with some employees of Hotel Harrington and Harry's. "It's sad that they feel so comfortable here because obviously nobody who works here supports this stuff," one employee told the Washington Post.
The chairman of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, says that a corner of Harry's provided a "staging area" for demonstrations, due to its close proximity to protesting locations like Freedom Plaza, the White House, and the Trump hotel. However, he says the group's connection to the establishment is overblown and the temporary closure of Hotel Harrington and Harry's will not impact the group's plans on January 6.
The Donald, a popular website for conservatives and planned rally-goers, was filled with posts complaining about Hotel Harrington canceling their reservations, reported The Daily Beast's Will Sommer.
A permit application for Jan. 6 states approximately 5,000 people will attend a demonstration on the day Congress will count the electoral votes and declare Joe Biden president-elect. Women For America First, one of the conservative organizations behind the last two D.C. rallies, submitted the permit and Tarrio says the Proud Boys will be providing "as much security as we can and we're gonna spread ourselves through all the events that are coming through D.C."
During previous demonstrations, Proud Boys were recognizable by their black and yellow attire. But during the early January rally, the group will be wearing "typical Trump stuff" and potentially black clothing instead, per Tarrio.
Tarrio claimed responsibility for destroying a Black Lives Matter banner that belonged to a downtown D.C. church during the previous MAGA rally — multiple banners were taken from historic Black churches on Dec. 12 and burned. Authorities are investigating the acts as potential hate crimes.
Rev. George C. Gilbert Jr., speaking on behalf of the Center for Racial Equity and Justice, the Missionary Baptist Ministers Conference of Washington D.C., the Baptist Convention of Washington, D.C., and the National Capitol Baptist Convention, commended the Hotel Harrington and Harry's for deciding to close during the forthcoming MAGA rally, though he says that "just shutting down is not enough."
He is calling for a sit-down conversation with the owners to discuss "how hurtful and detrimental it was to see a business in our community be the place of gathering for those who symbolize ... the hatred of racism."
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.