The owners of Maloney's Uptown said Saturday that they are not opening the sports bar as a "gay-friendly" bar as was reported a day earlier.
Hanna and John Hartnett, the owner and manager, also are angry that a man, Geoff Rosenberger, who unsuccessfully tried to purchase the bar, was saying that he was affiliated with Maloney's when he has no relationship with the bar, financial, promotional or otherwise.
"He has no right to be saying anything about how this place is a gay-friendly bar or any say about what happens with this place," John Hartnett said Saturday as he took a break from last-minute preparations for the soft opening planned for later that evening. "Every bar in Atlantic City is gay friendly, but at the same time I don't want to labeled as a gay bar. I don't want to be labeled period."
Rosenberger, an Atlantic City advocate and real estate broker, wanted to buy the property and open a gay bar, but he and his business partners were unable to obtain financing. Rosenberger first announced plans to purchase the Tennessee Avenue bar last fall. News of the proposal, which came months before Resorts opened a GLBT bar in the resort, quickly spread throughout gay news websites.
But last fall, Rosenberger was only in discussions about the property. Since then, Hartnett has feared the gay-bar buzz would hurt his business if his bar were to reopen. "I let it go over my head until I read in the paper the same day I'm trying to open the doors that Maloney's Uptown is a gay bar," Hartnett said.
Rosenberger was incorrectly identified as one of the bar's owners on Saturday in a Press of Atlantic City article, and he told a reporter the bar would be gay friendly. He said Saturday that every bar in Atlantic City is gay friendly.
The Hartnetts rent the space from the owner, who is listed in tax records as Greater Pittsburgh LLC. Hanna Hartnett purchased the liquor license June 30.
Earlier this week, Rosenberger invited hundreds of friends on the social-networking site Facebook to Saturday's soft opening of Maloney's. About two dozen people commented on the event invitation, many congratulating Rosenberger for his new venture.
Rosenberger also posted a promotional flyer for the bar that listed his name on gay-affiliated Facebook groups and the event was posted on www.PrideParade.us, a regional GLBT website that features bars and nightclubs that are owned or friendly to the gay community.
The Facebook event postings were deleted Saturday afternoon.
Rosenberger is active in the renewal of Atlantic City and has talked to many about his dreams and ideas of rebuilding the New York Avenue area as a vibrant gay and lesbian neighborhood. He has attended numerous city functions including CRDA meetings and the governor's Boardwalk speech announcing a state takeover of Atlantic City's tourism district.
Last week, Rosenberger and another business partner approached Hartnett about working as promoters, but nothing was ever approved, Hartnett said. Both businessmen were told they could invite their friends to the opening, but not to promote the bar as a gay bar, Hartnett said.
"His whole approach when he came to me as wanting to be a promoter is making it a gay bar, and I said ‘absolutely not,'" Hartnett said.
Rosenberger clarified that position Saturday, writing in an email that he has no ownership interests in the bar and it is not a gay bar, but that he and a business partner "have permission from the long standing owners to promote Fridays and Saturdays in the Maloney's tradition." He also stated that "our plans include live entertainment, talent shows, reality shows based on Atlantic City nightlife, Latin nights, European nights, anything and everything that is A.C."
Hartnett said he was shocked at what Rosenberger was saying and that he had never heard of his plans. He said he was stunned that Rosenberger was promoting the bar when he did not have permission to do so.
Rosenberger wrote in a column published Friday on Atlantic City Weekly's website that he approached Maloney's owners and asked if they could promote Friday and Saturday nights "using their old formula and blending in some new ideas. For instance, we'll soon be streaming live shows from Maloneys over the net. They agreed to let us participate."
He also told The Press that Maloney's would have performance space that would feature a diverse mix of shows, including those for the gay and lesbian community.
For Hartnett, the final straw came as he was eating breakfast at a Margate diner, when the waitress told Hartnett that she heard that Rosenberger owned Maloney's and would be opening it as a gay bar. It was one of many moments in the past few months, Hartnett said, where people told him that they heard Rosenberger was the new owner.
"It's a small town. People knew I was trying to buy the bar, but I have not told anyone I owned that bar," Rosenberger said Saturday.
Despite the recent confusion, the Hartnetts are still working toward opening the bar to full capacity by the end of the summer, with food service beginning this week. John Hartnett said he hopes to rebuild the vibe that drew large crowds several years ago before the bar was closed. He said he feared the confusion over the bar's theme would alienate some customers, gay and straight, but he hopes that people will see the place as friendly to all.
"Whether you're gay, straight or alien, you can come in here and have a good time," he said.
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