San Francisco bar receives threats after viral hose video

San Francisco bar receives threats after viral hose video

The owners of a bar in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood say they have received hundreds of threatening and hateful messages since a video of a man spraying a homeless woman with a sock went viral earlier this week. Critically, neither the owners nor the employees of Lounge Barbarossa on Montgomery Street had anything to do with the incident.

The video, which appeared online on Monday, shows art gallery owner Collier Gwin leaning on a fence in front of Lounge Barbarossa as he hits a woman sitting on the sidewalk in the face and chest with a garden hose from a distance short. Gwin, whose art gallery is in the same building as the Barbarossa Lounge, said he was trying to clean the sidewalk the woman was sitting on when she became belligerent and started yelling at him. As of Friday, several viral posts of the video had been viewed 17 million times on Twitter.

Trena Hamidi, a co-owner of Barbarossa Lounge, said her bar’s presence in the video has led to a widespread misconception that Gwin is connected to her business. As a result, Hamidi told SFGATE that the bar has received “hundreds” of threatening calls, emails and messages on social media in the days since the video surfaced online.

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“It’s scary, it’s definitely scary,” she said. “Obviously we care about the safety of our staff and our employees, so it’s scary. It’s really frustrating and challenging to deal with the response to an incident that’s not related to us. It’s almost like we’re an innocent bystander, caught us in the background of that video and people are assuming it was us. Some people have done their due diligence … but a lot of people aren’t.”

Hamidi said the FBI contacted the business to notify the owners that the agency has been monitoring online chats and has discovered “numerous” credible threats against the business. Hamidi said he was unaware of the nature of those threats, but added that the situation prompted an officer with the San Francisco Police Department to be stationed outside the bar Tuesday night.

The San Francisco office of the FBI told SFGATE in an email that it does not confirm threats made against an individual or entity, but said the agency follows up on such threats with local law enforcement. A spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department told SFGATE that the department is unable to confirm whether the FBI was investigating any threats made against Barbarossa Lounge.

Hamidi said her employees have mostly received calls from angry community members, but said she has also received hateful and threatening messages on her bar’s social media pages. She said many of the messages included threats to close her bar, or threats to report the bar to the Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit organization that deals with consumer complaints. She said the bar was also closed earlier this week as a precaution.

Gwin, for his part, seemed unrepentant. In an interview with SFGATE earlier this week, he said he would spray the woman again if presented with the same scenario.

“In that situation, the road was being washed away and she refused to move. She started shouting abuse and becoming very belligerent, he said. “… And at that moment, the cleaning on the street was directed more in front of her.”

The door to Gwin’s gallery was allegedly broken in, and negative Yelp reviews in recent days pushed the gallery’s rating on the site to an average of one star.

Hamidi said the backlash to the video is adding to the recent damage done to her bar by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We barely survived,” she said. “We are up and running, but we are by no means at the levels of business we were in before COVID, and now for this incident and our reputation to be dragged through the mud, it is making an already difficult situation impossible.”

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