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Las Perlas Security Aggressively Forced Out Trans Women After Violent Altercation

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A protest took place on Saturday, and police are investigating as a potential hate crime

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The glowing mezcal bar at Las Perlas.
Las Perlas
Las Perlas
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Downtown mezcal bar Las Perlas has been facing protests and boycott calls following an incident over the weekend involving two transgender women who say bouncers forcibly removed them from the property. The women say that another couple verbally and physically harassed them, leading to the altercation, but that the bar’s bouncers were tougher on them than the other couple. Bystanders captured the rough-handed removal of the women on video.

As the Washington Post and others have reported, Jennifer Bianchi and her group say that another couple at the bar began targeting their group for being transgender. Security tried to quell the growing conflict by throwing out both groups, but the situation turned aggressive when bouncers physically dragged two of the women out the front door, one with an arm around her throat. Security also removed another person who kept imploring “don’t touch me like that” in the video.

Bianchi, Khloe Perez-Rios (who recorded the incident, shown here with a trigger warning for light violence), and others say the women were forced to stand on the sidewalk alongside their harassers, who kept insulting them as police arrived. Both Bianchi and Perez-Rios also say that the offending couple slapped Bianchi, and that the bouncers did not physically restrain the other couple when removing them from the bar, only putting hands on the transgender women.

Social media exploded after word of the Friday night incident spread online, with near-immediate calls for a Las Perlas boycott. KTLA reporter Carlos Saucedo captured images from a large-scale protest in front of the bar on Saturday night, with dozens of people showing up with signs of support for the transgender community. Many protesters asked Las Perlas customers approaching the front door to refrain from entering out of solidarity.

Restaurant and bar group Pouring With Heart (formerly known as 213 Hospitality) owns Las Perlas, among establishments in Los Angeles, Austin, San Diego, and Denver. The group’s CEO Cedd Moses spoke with the Washington Post, originally calling the issue little more than an “escalated verbal altercation” before adding in a second statement on Las Perlas’s Instagram account that the issue was “not in alignment with who we are.”

The company has also addressed the incident on its Facebook page, and say that they are investigating it internally. They have also fired their security company for the bar, and provided the following statement to Eater:

On Friday night there was an altercation at Las Perlas and our outside security staff removed several patrons from both sides of the altercation. Our first and primary concern, and has been from day one, is to operate a safe place for all people. Period, no exceptions. We regret that didn’t happen Friday night, and want to apologize to all of our guests including the Transgender community, a community who has come to our bar as well as works there. We are taking immediate steps to fully investigate what happened on Friday and to address each concern that we’ve received since then.

To begin to make this right we commit immediately to the following actions:

We are hiring a new security company for Las Perlas that has received sensitivity training.

We have retained outside counsel to review the tapes and actions from Friday night to make more specific analysis of exactly what happened and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

We are committed to working with the community and we are researching the right partner to help us move forward in the most positive way possible including staff and vendor training.

This incident is not in alignment with who we are and our intent is to prove this in action and deed, not words and hyperbole.

Police are still investigating the incident as a potential hate crime, though they have yet to name any suspects. Meanwhile, Las Perlas owners are still planning to open a second LA-area location of the bar in West Hollywood before the end of the year.

Las Perlas. 107 E. 6th St., Los Angeles, CA.