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Winter Garden restaurant’s anti-trans beer special seen to mock Pulse shooting

On the eve of Pride Month, MoonCricket Grille offered 49-cent Bud Lights to pour down the drain

MoonCricket Grille
MoonCricket Grille owner Bert Valdes said he just wanted to "have fun" with a beer promo. "The sick people who were offended were outweighed by the few hundred who thought it was funny." Photo: Fletcher Dworkin-McDaniel/VoxPopuli

MoonCricket Grille on Wednesday —the day before the start of Pride Month — ran a beer promotion featuring bottles of Bud Light for 49 cents that critics decried as anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ and mocking the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting.

Posts on the Winter Garden restaurant’s Facebook page urged “loyal MoonCricket Friends to take one for the team!” and assured patrons, “It’s okay if you want to buy a bottle and have it poured down the drain … Don’t even call it Woke Wednesday.”

“It’s disgusting that a semi-prominent business owner, already indifferent to their racist name, feels justified in waving an anti-LGBTQ flag to try to bring customers in,” said longtime Winter Garden resident and VoxPopuli board member Joseph Richardson. "It is exactly this kind of divisive, un-American behavior that should be condemned from all sides.”

On social media, people were quick to jump on the beer price — 49 cents — as a reference to the number of people killed at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub in the second deadliest mass shooting in American history. The seventh anniversary is June 12.

“So this is a restaurant that I used to frequent (right outside Orlando).. Mooncricket Grille) until I found out the owners are homophobic af!! And if no one remembers … 49 is the number of Pulse victims!! Utter and total trash!!!”

“…I would have continued patronizing this restaurant until they started MOCKING THE MURDER OF OUR NEIGHBORS WITH A BEER PROMO and then laughed about it when their customers decided that “celebrating a massacre” wasn’t the lunchtime vibe they were going for.

When this was brought to the attention of ownership (because a LOT of us have queer friends and family) or just care about the fact that 49 people were shot and killed because someone didn’t like them, they joked that it was fun to “poke a woke” while other patrons said it was “only the freaks” who were being “triggered” (their words, not mine). Apparently preferring to dine in a place where mass murder isn’t a joke is too “woke” for Bert! …"

Screenshots of a Facebook message conversation were posted in the Dr. Phillips Local Facebook group, in which an anonymous member asked the MoonCricket Grille owners “what you really think about using 49 cents as a tasteless crude joke against the gay community. 49 human beings were murdered at Pulse. Did you guys really think that was funny?”

The owner’s response: “Get over yourself.”

"This is the infuriating and inevitable outcome of the kind of climate that people like Ron DeSantis and his right wing allies have created in Florida,” Brandon Wolf, a Pulse Nightclub survivor and the press secretary for Equality Florida, the LGBTQ civil rights advocacy group, wrote in an email to VoxPopuli.

“My best friends and the 47 other victims of Pulse are not a punchline. What I and so many others went through that night isn't right wing marketing fodder. This community — our entire state — deserves better than emboldened right wing hysteria bait that desecrates the memories of people we loved and peddles our grief for clicks and giggles.”

Speaking with VoxPopuli in a phone interview, MoonCricket Grille owner Bert Valdes denied any “mal-intent.” He said he simply wanted to “have fun” with the effort to sell through his last few cases of Bud Light.

“I used to buy five cases a week. I haven’t ordered [Bud Light] in two months,” he said. “The sick people who were offended don’t outweigh the few hundred who thought it was a funny thing.”

“We all know why they’re not buying it,” Valdes added, referring to the controversy over Bud Light’s sponsorship deal with actor and transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney who documented her transition on her Instagram page.

Valdes told VoxPopuli that his restaurant has gay patrons and that he has trans women friends who he takes care not to misgender, though he routinely referred to Mulvaney as "Mr." and said "he duped everyone and made a mockery of the LGBT community."

Conservatives in April launched a boycott of Bud Light after the beer company sent a few cans of beer to Mulvaney — one of which featured her likeness — and she posted about the beer, March Madness and her first year as a woman on Instagram as part of a sponsorship deal. Musicians like Kid Rock, Travis Tritt and Ted Nugent and Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene went ballistic that the "king of beers" was seeking new drinkers amongst the trans community despite, as Vice reported, Anheuser-Busch's history of supporting anti-LGBTQ politicians and legislation. Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn also began an investigation into whether Bud Light’s parent company Anheuser-Busch could be marketing to minors because Mulvaney has a young following.

The beer company also took heat from the left as The Advocate, a leading gay news and culture magazine, called for the LGBTQ community to boycott Budweiser for letting Mulvaney twist in the anti-trans hate. Budweiser has since donated $200,000 to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce Communities of Color Initiative for diverse businesses.

Meanwhile in the last two months, Bud Light sales have dropped about 30 percent compared to this time last year; revenue was down by more than 27 percent, according to Bump Williams Consulting and Nielsen IQ.

Valdes said that he and his staff discussed various price points for his Bud Light promotion before settling on 49 cents. “I said let’s make a statement that no one wants it even at that price.”

He rejected the suggestion that the beer price was related to the Pulse shooting. “What kind of callous asshole would take a tragedy of 49 dead people and tie it to the price of beer? C’mon!” Told that that’s how it was being perceived on social media, he responded, “I can’t help what plays out on Facebook.”

But he doesn’t mind stirring the pot, posting on May 31, in response to what he saw as faux outrage about his beer promo: “It’s been a while since I played Poke a Woke. “I forgot how much fun it is! They are so easy.”

The promotion had enthusiastic support on MoonCricket Grille’s Facebook page, where there was plenty of anti-trans invective on tap:

Can we set up a 10 yard pistol range on the median at plant street? I’ll buy every one of them.

Lol that is too funny good luck I would be willing to donate to have an afternoon pour on the street as well as long as you advertise that. Go yungling! Maybe we could have a pour off in front of target ?…

Wade Russell posted:

Anyone who cuts off genitals or takes extreme surgical measures to become the opposite sex needs a psychiatrist. This is a mental issue. Budlite has grown adults that “pretend” that a man, Dylan M is a woman. Its a lie. If you want people to live and let live, then don’t try to convince the rest of us these things are reality. just live and let live. To have target with children’s wiener tucking bathing suits is disgusting. If you want to live and let live, why is rainbow letter people pride a month and memorial day is a day? There is no live and let live it, shove it down everyone’s throat and try to force us to play along. Not gonna do it and not going to support it. Trans is a mental disease ghat should be treated not pretend its normal.

Janice Dyal Lemons

maybe they should stop shoving garbage down our throats instead. We need to stand our ground and Thankyou Moon Cricket for taking a stand and allowing us to be a part of it!

In the end, Valdes said just 30 bottles sold and he still had three cases of Bud Light left.

By early Saturday morning, every one of the beer promo posts, comments and photos had been scrubbed from Mooncricket Grille’s Facebook page.



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