In the early hours of a Friday morning, a disturbing incident unfolded in San Diego, California, as a fire was deliberately started on the patio of Gossip Grill, one of the nation’s few remaining lesbian and queer women’s bars. The alleged arsonist, 38-year-old Ryan Habrel, was swiftly arrested thanks to video footage capturing the act. Thankfully, no one was injured, and the interior of the bar remained unscathed.
Immediate Arrest and Ongoing Investigation
The quick response to the arson attempt was owed to the vigilance of Moe Girton, the bar’s owner, who recognized Habrel in the vicinity the day after the incident and promptly alerted the authorities. Habrel, known in the area as a homeless individual grappling with mental illness and drug addiction, now faces multiple hate crime charges.
The fire, which resulted in approximately $10,000 worth of property damage, primarily affected the patio area, destroying seating, an overhead awning, and outdoor decorations. Firefighters arrived promptly, extinguishing the blaze within minutes. Girton shared a video of the fire on the bar’s social media platforms, where the LGBTQ community and allies rallied in support.
A Community’s Resilience Shines Through
As news of the incident spread, Gossip Grill was inundated with patrons who wished to demonstrate their solidarity with the bar and its employees. For many, Gossip Grill is not just a place of entertainment but a cherished “safe space.” The incident served as a reminder of the importance of such establishments in LGBTQ communities, prompting customers to come together, enjoy a beverage, and defy fear.
San Diego Police Department Lt. Adam T. Sharki stated, “The investigation is ongoing, and there is no indication at this time that this is hate-crime-related.” Despite the unsettling events, Gossip Grill opened its doors as usual the following day, reaffirming its commitment to resilience and inclusivity in the face of adversity.
This incident underscores the vital role that LGBTQ establishments play in fostering community and the importance of swift action in addressing hate crimes.