The blow to the head that killed Eric Pope last month also wounded a community. But it didn’t occur in a vacuum. Problematic interactions between LGBT patrons and bouncers in the Gayborhood date back to the 1990s and earlier.
In November 1993, gay man Ryan Hall sued Woody’s Bar in the Gayborhood for assault and battery after a bouncer allegedly fractured his arm. In January 1995, Hall was awarded $29,370.84 in damages. Woody’s appealed the ruling, but it was upheld by the state Superior Court — though Hall was criticized by many for suing Woody’s.
The most recent bouncer-related incident involved Kenneth J. Frye, 23, a bouncer who worked at Tabu Nightclub last month. On April 16, Frye escorted Eric Pope out of Tabu Nightclub due to intoxication and punched the gay man in the head after he was dancing along South 12th Street.
Pope died a week later and Frye has been charged with third-degree murder. Police say the cause of Pope’s death is blunt-force trauma and the manner of his death is homicide.
As of press time, Frye remained incarcerated at a correctional facility in Northeast Philadelphia. A preliminary hearing for Frye is set for 9 a.m. May 16 in Room 306 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1315 Filbert Street in Center City. Municipal Court Judge David C. Shuter is scheduled to preside.
Zak T. Goldstein, an attorney for Frye, issued this statement: “This is a terrible and unforeseen tragedy. My client had no intention of killing or seriously injuring anyone. It had nothing to do with sexual orientation. I cannot comment any further given the pending criminal charges.”
On May 2, in response to a bail question, Goldstein added: “Bail has been set at $350,000 (10%), meaning he [Frye] would have to post $35,000 cash. He has not yet made bail.”
At the time he allegedly murdered Pope, Frye worked as an independent contractor for Mainline Private Security LLP. A representative for Mainline issued a statement noting that Frye didn’t have a criminal record prior to the April 16 incident and was duly certified as a bouncer in Philadelphia.
A review of Philadelphia’s civil court docket reveals multiple lawsuits filed against Mainline Security — alleging excessive force by bouncers or, conversely, bouncers not adequately protecting patrons from violence.
For example, a personal-injury lawsuit against Mainline Security alleges that bouncer Michael Mapp, 41, injured Voyeur Nightclub patron Julian Domanico to the extent that he suffered permanent facial scarring. Mapp was found guilty of simple assault and sentenced to eight months’ probation.
The Domanico case continues to be contested in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. Domanico seeks in excess of $50,000 in damages. A jury trial is tentatively set for Oct. 3. Neither side had a comment.
A recently settled lawsuit alleged a Mainline bouncer injured a man on the head at 1500 Lounge, 1500 Sansom St. in Center City. That lawsuit settled for an undisclosed amount of money. Neither side had a comment.
Additionally, multiple disturbances in the Gayborhood requiring a police response allegedly involved bouncers, though it remains unclear whether they’re Mainline bouncers.
For example, Philadelphia police released this narrative of an incident that occurred in March 2022 at Voyeur Nightclub:
“On Sunday, March 27th, 2022, at approximately 2:45 A.M., a 35-year-old male victim stated to police he was leaving Voyeur Nightclub at 12XX St. James St. with a female friend when offender # 1 put his hand on his shoulder. The victim stated he asked offender #1 to remove his hand and that is when offender #1 began to choke the victim with both of his hands. At this point, other unknown offenders then began to push and pull the victim in every direction. The victim was later treated/evaluated at Jefferson Hospital. A determination was made that the victim suffered a closed fracture of the hyoid bone. All offenders are presumed bouncers at the club. This investigation is active and ongoing with the Central Detective Division.”
Additionally, police released this narrative of an incident in April 2022 outside U-Bahn in the Gayborhood.
“On Sunday, April 3rd, 2022, at approximately 1:13 A.M., while at the 1300 block of Chestnut St, a 22-year-old male victim stated to police, he was assaulted by 10 bouncers on location. He received an abrasion over his eye and refused treatment. No other information was received. This investigation is active and ongoing with the Central Detective Division.”
A representative for Mainline security didn’t immediately return phone calls seeking comment regarding the alleged incidents. Corporal Jasmine Reilly of the Philadelphia Police Department declined to confirm the incidents involving Mainline bouncers.
“I can’t confirm that Mainline Security is behind those specific incidents,” Reilly said, in an email. “But I can say that Police are investigating several incidents involving private security in the downtown area.”