Death Threats Made over Controversial 'Gay Bar' Field Trip

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday November 1, 2021

A Florida mother's tweet about a class field trip to a local restaurant drew controversy, condemnation, accusations of a left-wing "set-up," and even death threats despite the establishment being a longtime annual destination, The U.S. Sun reported.

As previously reported at EDGE, the firestorm was sparked by social media posts made by Sarah Leonardi, who is a member of the Broward County School Board and a parent to a child in the school system.

Leonardi, The U.S. Sun detailed, "posted a series of images to Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday showing kids from Wilton Manors Elementary visiting the nearby Rosie's Bar and Grill."

The establishment is popular with the city's large LGBTQ+ population, and is known for its risqué, double-entendre filled menu. But it has also been the site of a yearly field trip in which students learn about restaurants. The field trip took place while the establishment was closed, and that naughty menu was kept out of little hands, with a kid-friendly menu "listing only hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, and grilled cheese sandwiches" on the day's bill of fare, the newspaper account said.

None of that made any difference to social media trolls who blasted Leonardi, "suggesting she should be removed from office, arrested or even 'killed,'" The U.S. Sun reported.

One comment declared, "It's wildly inappropriate to expose children that young to ANY sexual orientation," while another wondered, "Where will you take them next? A casino, strip club?"

The press secretary to Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Christina Pushaw, "appeared to suggest that Leonardi had set the whole trip up so that she could provoke outrage and draw attention to herself," the article noted.

"What if the Broward school board member took little kids to this bar EXPECTING that some parents would protest, so she could call the FBI and go on MSNBC to discuss all the 'threatening messages' she's received from 'insurrectionist' parents?" Pushaw posted, along with a photo of the establishment's regular menu — the menu, reports said, the school kids did not see.

Others pointed out that the so-called "gay bar" was "no different than a family dinner out at any other bar and grill, such as TGI Friday's and Applebee's," the article went on to add.

Others responding to the original tweet took note of the field trip's focus on the local business community.

Indeed, the school district explained that this was the field trip's point.

"They learn about the types of jobs involved in operating a restaurant, how to pay for their meal, and how to leave a tip for the service they receive."

"Rosie's has hosted the field trip for about a decade," The U.S. Sun noted.

Still, the angry rhetoric had only been getting hotter, with Leonardi getting "'bigoted comments and death threats' in the days since she uploaded her posts," the article said.

Trolls have also focused their rage on the establishment's employees, with owner John Zieba telling CBS Miami that people were "jamming phone lines all day with nasty comments, cursing out my staff and with social media and everything else."

"Everything's just been blown way out of proportion for ridiculous purposes," Zieba said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.