In March, when Mister Sister opened in Winooski, Vermont, owner Craig McGaughan expected a steady stream of business. What he got was outrage over the bar’s name, as members of the local LGBT community took it as a slur against transgender women.
After weeks of complaints and bad press, McGaughan changed Mister Sister’s name to The Bridge Club, but it was too late. This week, a notice on the Bridge Club website announced it is closed for good.
“Fake social justice terrorists put us out of business,” reads the message superimposed over the Mister Sister logo.
Back in February, McGaughan announced that area wine bar Oak45 would close for a month and reopen as Mister Sister, Burlington’s first gay bar in more than a decade.
The news was met with criticism from members of the community: After the Pride Center of Vermont failed to take an immediate stance on the controversy, two board members resigned. A week later, the Center issued a statement saying McGaughan should change the name.
Donations made to the Pride Center and the Vermont People With AIDS Coalition were rejected because the groups didn’t want to be associated with his bar.
McGaughan held firm until late June, when he renamed the venue.
“I hope everyone finds the humor in going to ’The Bridge Club’ to party, sees the nod to the historic Winooski Bridge and recognizes the camaraderie and necessity in building bridges,” he wrote on Facebook in a since-deleted post. “My wish is that we can all forgive and move forward. Nothing good came from the fighting. No one won here.”
A GoFundMe campaign McGaughan started to raise $100,000 earned less than $2,000. A notice on the page now says the club is “permanently closed.”