Austin Bar: “We Don’t Play Latin Music Here. You Need to Turn It Off”

Chulita Vinyl Club Austin in action (Photo by Lynda Gonzalez/Used with permission)

It was Friday night at the “Upstairs at Caroline” bar at the Aloft Hotel in Austin, Texas. The vibes were good. People even moved some tables out of the way to dance. Until one guy decided to shut the music off and switch the Cumbia music to House music.

The following video, posted by Chulita Vinyl Club, shows the exchange between managers of the establishment and the women DJ group after the incident.

Chulita Vinyl Club (CVC), a group of DJ women of color, was playing some Latin music after the Afro-Colombian funk music group, Superfónicos, performed. As Maddie was finishing her second music set, Michael Childress, the bar’s assistant general manager, approached her to stop the music.

According to a statement posted on CVC website and Facebook page, Childress “approached one of our members commenting that the hotel did not want us to play Latin music anymore, that the vibe was too low, and to turn it off.”

Latino Rebels spoke with one of the members of CVC, Claudia, who was also at the event on Friday. “Everyone was upset. A lot of people who were dancing left with us and showed support,” Claudia said.

Claudia explained that after Childress asked her colleague Maddie to stop the music, he went to the sound system guy and changed the music anyways. It quickly went from Cumbia to House music.

The five women from CVC packed their equipment and left the place. Outside the establishment, assistant manager Adam Slyter confirmed that people were dancing to Latin music as they were discussing what happened, contradicting what Childress said earlier that the “vibe was too low.”

In the video, you can see how Childress apologized to the women several times. Later on, the hotel’s general manager, David Meisner, explained that the hotel had a music programming already set. This did not clarify why they stopped Chulita Vinyl Club from playing.

“We are not a Spotify account that you can’t just flipped and said: oh, you are out,” Claudia said, calling the hotel staff actions disrespectful.

“You can’t mistreat the people that you hire and working for you. My concern is that we were not the only ones disrespected. Our whole community was,” Claudia added.

CVC returned the money they received from the hotel. “We felt so uncomfortable and unwelcome at the Caroline venue that we cannot in good consciousness accept their money,” the statement said.

Latino Rebels contacted Upstairs at Caroline Bar. They said that Meisner was not at the place at the moment. Later, director of communication Kathleen Quilligan Sebastian sent and statement via email. Here it is:

I am sending the statement below in regard to your earlier inquiry about Chulita Vinyl Club and Upstairs at Caroline. Thank you.

We specifically chose the Chulita Vinyl Club to play at Upstairs at Caroline as part of our music series because we like their work. We were honored to have them DJ last Friday night. In preparing for the last couple hours of service at the restaurant, we wanted to switch the tempo of the music, so we asked them to end about 10 minutes early. The request was not about the genre of music, but we did not communicate or handle the situation appropriately on our end.  We apologize for offending Chulita Vinyl Club and the community, and we deeply regret the way the situation was handled.  We have reached out to Chulita Vinyl Club to apologize in person. We are sorry for our actions and are actively working with and re-training our team on creating a safe, inclusive, respectful environment where everyone knows they are genuinely welcomed and valued.

David Meisner, General Manager

On Monday afternoon, Superfónicos released a statement in support of CVC:

CVC released a statement Monday afternoon, thanking people for their support.

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María Camila Montañez is a journalism student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Spanish-language program. She is originally from Colombia and tweets from @mariacmontanez.

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