Progress Bar owner releases statement following backlash over rap ban

Thu. May 30, 2019 4:55 PM by News Staff

progress bar in boystown

photo credit // steven koch

Progress Bar will be closed Thursday night, no announcement on when the club will reopen

Justin Romme, the owner of Progress Bar, issued a statement to on Thursday following sharp criticism over the club's decision to institute a ban on rap music.

"To our patrons, neighbors and the LGBTQ+ community:

"The email issued yesterday did not reflect the values of Progress Bar. The content was unwelcoming and hurtful, and in retrospect, it should have never been written or sent. We seek to be a trusted member of the LGBTQ+ community and in the city of Chicago as a welcoming place for every person no matter their race, creed or sexual orientation. We sincerely apologize to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community and across Chicago for the hurt this message caused.  

"Tonight, we will be closed so we can begin working to heal the pain. When we reopen, we will do so with a renewed commitment to create a space whose patronage, atmosphere, and—yes—music reflects the diversity of our community."

The new statement, released through a public relations firm, comes on the heels of a controversial email from Progress Bar management to club DJs implementing a "no rap rule."

The email, which was leaked and widely shared on social media on Wednesday, read in part: "Anything vulgar, aggressive or considered mumble rap (including certain Cardi B tracks and newer Nicki Minaj) is off limits. If you are unsure if a song qualifies, assume it does and choose something else. Think KISSFM/B96 opposed to WGCI."

The new policy immediately drew criticism online over racial discrimination.

"Veiled racism is veiled racism," one person wrote on Facebook.

"Just go on and say you don't want Black people at your bar and stop beating around the bush," wrote another person on Twitter.

"They have catered to POC and done an amazing business with it for years? Why screw it up?", asked another person on Facebook. "They deserve to close and I bet they will. No 'apology' or firing of the person who did this will make a difference at this point."

The policy was announced just days after a violent fight at the bar where a man suffered a cut to his face following an aggravated battery with a knife or "cutting instrument."

Chicago-based Culloton Strategies, speaking on behalf of Romme and Progress Bar, offered no further comment. 

Related: Boystown bar takes aim at rap music, faces social media outrage