Icandy, the Gayborhood bar that has been ensnared in racial controversy since its owner was caught on video in 2016 using the N-word, is expected to close this fall and be replaced by Tabu Lounge & Bar, which plans to move into Icandy's space near 12th and Spruce Streets.
Supporters call the move a sign of progress in the Gayborhood's attempts to overcome racial discrimination and the scars that Icandy owner Darryl DePiano's words left.
"The goal is to undertake a revitalization of the whole neighborhood with the opening of this bar," Tabu owner Jeff Sotland said, "and to bring people back to the neighborhood who had left because they didn't feel it was a safe space. They didn't feel that they were welcome."
While Sotland hopes to hire some Icandy staffers, he said Tabu — which draws one of the Gayborhood's most racially diverse crowds in its current space near 12th and Walnut Streets — "won't be in a situation where we're inheriting an atmosphere that people aren't comfortable in."
Amber Hikes, Philadelphia's LGBT affairs director, expressed support for the move and what it means for the Gayborhood's future.
"While there is still much work to be done, Tabu is known for its welcoming atmosphere and community engagement," Hikes said. "So its expansion sends a positive message that the Gayborhood is turning the page and we're ready to heal."
As part of the deal, first reported by PhillyVoice, DePiano will sell the Icandy building to Tabu partner Stephen Carlino. The sale price has not been disclosed, but Sotland said Icandy will likely close after Labor Day, allowing Tabu to make renovations and open in the space in late September.
Tabu's current location will remain open in the meantime. It was not immediately clear what will happen to that space.
DePiano did not respond to a request for comment. He has repeatedly faced pressure to close Icandy, which opened in 2011.
In the aftermath of the 2016 video, activists from the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative held protests outside DePiano's bar. Last year, an online petition also urged entertainers to avoid participating in a Labor Day event there, saying, "Partnering with this man to bring the Black dollar back to his business is a mistake."
Whether to shun or help DePiano created divisions between some LGBT people of color. On one side were those who collaborated with DePiano to draw people of color back to his bar. On the other side were those, such as the Workers Cooperative, who demanded that Icandy close and that people of color refuse to support it.
The disagreement resulted in personal attacks on social media and heated debate, both sides say.
"There were a lot of relationships that were severed," said Sharron Cooks, 40, a transgender woman and activist who opposed the plan to work with Icandy. Cooks suggested that LGBT people of color open a community space outside the Gayborhood.
The city last year mandated that the area's bars undergo anti-bias training. DePiano's comments weren't the only factor. Black patrons at other Gayborhood bars had also reported having to show multiple IDs to gain entry and bouncers turning them away for wearing sweatpants or Timberland boots.