Briana Sandy Files Official Complaint Against Tempe Tavern

Tempe Tavern manager Robert Tasso (left) at a press conference on Monday alongside the Reverend Jarrett Maupin (center) and local transgender woman Briana Sandy (right).
Tempe Tavern manager Robert Tasso (left) at a press conference on Monday alongside the Reverend Jarrett Maupin (center) and local transgender woman Briana Sandy (right).
Benjamin Leatherman

There's a new development in the situation involving local transgender woman Briana Sandy and her issues with Tempe Tavern. Earlier today, the Gilbert resident filed an official complaint with the City of Tempe against the bar and music venue over being denied service and booted out last weekend.

The claim, which was submitted to the city's Diversity Office this morning, alleges that Sandy was discriminated against by Tempe Tavern employees because of her gender orientation when she was asked to leave the bar on June 6.

The transgender woman, who legally became a woman last year, was at the establishment to watch the Belmont Stakes.

Sandy chose to file the complaint despite receiving a public apology from Tempe Tavern manager Robert Tasso during a press conference at the bar on Monday.

Sandy's contends that the incident was in violation of Tempe's anti-discrimination ordinance which was enacted last year and make it illegal for businesses to refuse service to any patron because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other factors. She is the first person to file a complaint under the ordinance.

According to Reverend Jarrett Maupin, the local civil rights activist that is counseling Sandy on the matter, separate complaints were also filed today with civil rights division's of the Arizona Attorney General's office and the Department of Justice. (New Times has been unable to confirm these complaints as of this afternoon.)

At Monday's press conference, Maupin and Sandy's attorney, Benjamin Taylor, said that she was pursuing the matter beyond an apology to raise awareness of Tempe's ordinance and to help establish other anti-discrimination legislation on a state level.

“Civil rights is important, no matter who [or] what gender, religion, race someone is,” Taylor stated on Monday.

And one of the reasons why Sandy is hoping to increase awareness of the ordinance, she says, is because of difficulty that she had with reporting the incident at Tempe Tavern. Sandy claims that she initially called the Tempe Police Department after being kicked out of the bar and that officers were unaware of the existence of the anti-discrimination ordinance.

“I have to try and keep this from happening again," Sandy told New Times after the incident.

According to the ordinance, Tempe Tavern now has 20 days to respond to the complaint. Meanwhile, city officials have a little less than four months to investigate the matter and determine if there's sufficient cause to take further action in the matter.

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If they find that the bar discriminated against Sandy, officials can attempt to remedy the situation a mediation and discussion process with both sides, or it can dismiss the matter altogether if there is insufficient evidence. If Tempe Tavern is found to have discriminated against Sandy, it could be hit with a fine of up to $2,500.

Tasso told New Times this afternoon that the bar will respond to the complaint and are willing to work with city officials regarding the matter.

“We definitely plan to address this,” he says.

UPDATE: And they have. Late this afternoon, Tasso released a statement to the media concerning the complaint and the issue as a whole:

We would like to start by saying that since the initial encounter between the employees at the Tempe Tavern and Ms. Sandy, there has been a torrent of vitriol directed at both the Tempe Tavern, it's employees, Ms. Sandy, and her supporters. This is unfortunate, unnecessary, and completely unproductive. To the extent we have been able, the Tempe Tavern has worked to mitigate the escalation of these discussions, both directly and indirectly through a consultant. These efforts have, for the most part, been successful. However, there still are some people that continue to argue with unrelenting invective online. We wish this would stop.

When our bartender mistakenly assumed something about Ms. Sandy, she acted as she felt was appropriate. She acted as she had been instructed. What you have here is a young girl who hasn't been exposed to the diverse clientele that we regularly serve; this clientele includes LGBT community members. She made a grave error in judgment when she asked Ms. Sandy to leave the bar. The truth of the matter is, we do have a problem with some people that solicit patrons of neighboring businesses attempting to do the same inside the Tempe Tavern.

This decision by the bartender to ask Ms. Sandy to leave was not based on the distinction of her gender identity. It was based on an erroneous rush to judgement as to the purpose of her visit. Had a more seasoned bartender been onsite with this younger employee, this would never have happened. The fact that it did is terrible. It made Ms. Sandy feel singled out, diminished, and less than whole. We have offered apologies and attempted to explain ourselves. While the facts in this case will ultimately speak for themselves, the complaint filed with the City of Tempe was not a surprise. We hope to see a quick and conclusive decision made on this matter, so we can finally put it behind us. 

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1810 E. Apache
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