A downtown Austin gay bar is beefing up security after someone threw a firework onto its patio for the second time this summer, setting off a cloud of smoke that sent patrons scrambling early Thursday just days before Austin Pride weekend.
Steve Rivas said he was at the Iron Bear on West Eighth Street for karaoke night with his husband when, shortly after 1 a.m., he heard a loud, thunderous bang that rattled the bar’s windows.
“There was a bright green flash followed by a burst of smoke,” said Rivas, who called 911 to report the incident.
He said a firework had been thrown from a moving vehicle onto the patio, where about a dozen people were gathered.
“I don’t think people were afraid as much as in shock,” Rivas said. “When a firework is thrown, it is loud. When a firework is thrown on a sidewalk full of people at a gay bar, it is scary.”
The Iron Bear co-owner Bengie Beshear said he was in the office when it happened but was told by patrons that the firecracker was thrown from a black or dark-colored car that was stopped at a traffic light. The camera system, however, didn’t record the incident because it faces the front door to the establishment.
He said a woman complained that an ember hit her leg but she was OK.
“(The firework) landed in an empty spot, and thankfully no one was hurt,” he said.
Beshear said this is the second time this has happened.
On June 28, after another karaoke night, someone similarly threw a firework onto the patio.
Beshear said patrons called the police that time, too, but no one responded.
He said he is not sure if the business was targeted because it is a gay bar, but whoever threw the firework did not say anything or yell any slurs.
“I am a little more concerned this time because this is the second time this happened,” Beshear said.
Austin police confirmed Thursday that officers responded to the bar around 1 a.m. They also said that about 30 to 40 minutes later, another firework was thrown on the south side of the Driskill Hotel, at the corner of Sixth and Brazos streets. None of the officers in the area saw any suspects, police said.
With Austin Pride events coming up this weekend and 400,000 people expected to crowd downtown streets for festivities, Beshear has asked police to increase patrols near his bar. He said he plans to install a camera with a street view to ensure patrons are safe.
Rivas said he thinks everyone should “be on high alert.”
“Someone did this once, they can do it again,” he said. “It is a cause for everyone to always be alert, and if you see something, say something.”