Bran-Leis, whose Mexican restaurant is in the 800 block of Upshur Street NW, said the calls began Dec. 12 and intensified on Sunday and Tuesday, the days of the two drag events. She said the restaurant received at least 30 calls each day, tying up the reservation line.
Most of the comments were homophobic in nature, Bran-Leis said, noting that her staff members are nearly all part of the LGBTQ community. She said the calls came from four different phones with different voices, some of whom said “they were going to burn down the restaurant and kill the staff.”
Bran-Leis said that at first her staff ignored the calls. But as the calls intensified Tuesday, the staff grew more concerned and called police. She said detectives took the numbers and recordings of the calls and posted an officer at the restaurant until it closed Tuesday night.
Police confirmed the investigation but would not comment on specific details. A police report says “there have been several phone calls from various numbers” and “each time the caller uses aggressive homophobic language.”
The number of hate crimes reported to D.C. police has more than tripled since 2015, with 205 reported in 2018. Statistics from police show 187 hate crimes reported through the end of October, ahead of last year’s pace. Police say the categories with the most complaints are for sexual orientation and gender identity, which have risen nearly 150 percent since 2015.
Bran-Leis said Taqueria Del Barrio’s events are advertised online and through social media. They are among the restaurant’s biggest attractions, and the Sunday show includes entertainers.
She said one employee did not feel safe coming to work on Wednesday. “Everybody started to get startled,” she said.