Ex-Employees Weigh In on Gay NYC Club Controversy

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday July 29, 2022

The allegations brought by former The Q club partner Frankie Sharp — who was fired in May and then went public with his story — read like a laundry list of what not to do when opening a gay club. A lawsuit Sharp filed following is termination claims that all this took place at the Hell's Kitchen venue: Racist rhetoric; allowing drugs and underage drinking on the premises; public sex; and, despite the club's promise to be a safe space for everyone, discrimination against certain segments of the LGBTQ+ community, including trans and femme people.

The Q opened in the wake of COVID shutdowns that had muzzled New York's club scene. "Backed by celebrity investors like Billy Porter and Zachary Quinto, the four-story nightclub opened to great fanfare in Hell's Kitchen in 2021," Business Insider recalled. "It garnered rave reviews and swiftly became one of the city's hottest gay nightclubs."

The club was named The Q, Sharp told NPR, to reflect its mission of being a space for everyone from the LGBTQ+ community. "As if the most all-inclusive and exhaustive letter had been plucked from the acronym LGBTQ and hung on the marquee," he explained.

But behind the scenes, Sharp and other former employees say, things were much different than they appeared on the club's welcoming-to-all public face. Sharp says that another partner in the venture, Allan Pikus, was responsible for the actions he lists in his suit, while a third partner, Bob Fluet, looked the other way.

In the wake of Sharp's lawsuit, other former club employees have come forward to substantiate Sharp's accusations.

"Forrest Wu, The Q's first general manager, said he was first interested in working at the club because of its mission to create a queer community space that was intersectional," NPR reported. But, Wu told the news outlet, "It just so quickly became clear to me that was more of a marketing tactic."

Though he had come into the job excited to hire workers from across the full LGBTQ+ spectrum of diversity, NPR related, "Wu said he was scolded for this effort."

"'I was very frequently reprimanded for it and encouraged to put white male bartenders' in prominent spots in the club, he said."

He also said he got "pushback" when he put femme bartenders and bartenders of color in places that the owners "deemed too prominent," according to NPR.

Wu also told NPR that Pikus cultivated a "squad of much younger guys who he would ply with drinks." NPR reported that a security video showed what appeared to be "Pikus engaging in a sexual act with a customer in the middle of one of the club's rooms."

"The room was packed with patrons; standing just a few feet away were the room's DJ and a person working the door, and not far from them was the bartender."

Wu backed up Sharp's claims that Pikus had uttered discriminatory rhetoric, describing comments Pikus made as "truly shocking rhetoric that was shared very freely and openly in a very uncoded way in conversations among senior leadership."

Examples from Sharp's lawsuit cited by NPR include claims that Pikus told a potential hire, "I don't need to break my back to hire people just because they're black or trans," and that he specifically instructed Sharp to "Make sure your Latin nights are the good kind of Latins. Not Blatinos."

UK newspaper the Daily Mail noted that the suit also claims Pikus told "staff he didn't want clientele 'looking like they were from the Bronx' and instructing that it was important they 'don't alienate white boys.'"

Another former employee of The Q, Pierce Hughes, "worked the door for the club from June 2021 until April of this year," NPR said, relaying that Hughes "said she and several other employees were allegedly often told: Don't let in women."

Sharp's lawsuit also alleges that Pikus was clear in his instructions to club security that they were not to check IDs (there have been accusations that The Q was a hub of underage drinking), nor were they to confiscate drugs brought onto the premises — specifically, GHB.

Similar to Sharp's claims, Wu said he had been "fired after regularly coming into contention with management over noninclusive policies," according to NPR.

He wasn't the only one let go during the club's turbulent early months. Sharp told NPR: "From bar staff members, promoters, dancers to DJs. It was daily. We had an almost comical turnover in managers over the first year of operation."

Added Sharp: "We all learned to deal with it because Bob [Fluet] was the controlling partner and he wouldn't do anything about it. The loudest complaints always came directly from me. Sadly, Bob consistently gaslit, diminished, and ignored me and the staff."

As previously reported at EDGE, Sharp, who claims he was fired after repeated attempts to reign in misconduct at the club — and before his ownership share in the establishment came into effect — "is accusing Bob Fluet, Allan Pikus, and Bar Fluid LLC for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, [and] unjust enrichment" in his lawsuit.

Sharp also claims that he was "used for 'ownership of my intellectual properties, my credibility, access to my celebrity investors and entry into my social network,'" in claims he has taken not just to a court of law but also, through social media, to the court of public opinion.

As an article in The Cut put it: "Despite early insinuations on the part of Fluet that Sharp's 'demons' caused the rift, which 'put me in a situation where I had no choice,' Sharp has been winning the public-relations battle."

"Pikus was described as being 'no longer affiliated with the Q' in a July 6 Instagram post from the new creative director, Luis Fernando," the Mail noted.

"He has not commented on the suit."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.