UPDATE: The hotel has shared this statement from David Meisner, general manager:
“We specifically chose the Chulita Vinyl Club to play at Upstairs at Caroline as part of our music series because we like their work. We were honored to have them DJ last Friday night. In preparing for the last couple hours of service at the restaurant, we wanted to switch the tempo of the music, so we asked them to end about 10 minutes early. The request was not about the genre of music but we did not communicate or handle the situation appropriately on our end. We apologize for offending Chulita Vinyl Club and the community and we deeply regret the way the situation was handled. We have reached out to Chulita Vinyl Club to apologize in person. We are sorry for our actions and are actively working with and re-training our team on creating a safe, inclusive, respectful environment where everyone knows they are genuinely welcomed and valued.”
Members of Chulita Vinyl Club, an all-female DJ collective known for spinning a mix of disco, funk, hip-hop and Latin sounds, say their gig at Upstairs at Caroline’s on Friday was cut short by a manager from the hotel bar who told them, “This hotel does not play Latin music.”
The gig was part of a soft opening for the bar, which is located upstairs from the new restaurant, Caroline. It is part of the Aloft Austin Downtown hotel. We have reached out to the hotel for comment.
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On Monday, one of the DJs, Claudia Aparicio, said the group was 10 minutes from finishing a lengthy set on a shared bill with local Afro-Colombian music group Superfonicos when they were approached by an agitated manager who told them to switch the music immediately because, “this hotel does not play Latin music.” He also told them, “you are bringing the vibe down,” she said.
Aparico said the manager then cut the music from the DJ booth off and switched to a house sound system. The women were upset by the situation and say that as they were packing up their gear, they were approached by other members of the club’s management team who apologized. The women took a video of their conversation with the managers that they posted on Instagram.
On Friday, July 28, 2017, the Chulita Vinyl Club (CVC) Austin chapter was hired to play at the newly opened @UpstairsatCaroline, a visibly Latin influenced venue, on the same bill as @superfonicos , a Colombian infused Funk band. . Those familiar with CVC know our set includes a well-curated variety of music such as disco, funk, motown, hip-hop, Latin, and world music. We are vinyl lovers and collectors, and as professional DJs each have our own style and choose our sets with consideration for the events and communities we are playing for. We had a great response from the crowd, complete with dancing and positive feedback in the form of words of encouragement. . After Superfónicos played, CVC in accordance with our booking and the venue's schedule, began our set to close the night. During the last 10 minutes of the set, a man named Michael Childress, Assistant GM, approached one of our Chulitas commenting that the hotel did not want us to play Latin music anymore, that the vibe was too low, and to turn it off. When questioned who he was, he stated that "this" was not the vibe that the venue is going for and promptly told us that he would turn us off and play the venue's house music. . CVC was disrespected. CVC recognizes that apologies are empty when actions do not follow and condemns the commodification and objectification of elements of our culture, while at the same time not accepting our culture or welcoming its community. We felt so uncomfortable and unwelcome at the Caroline venue that we cannot in good consciousness accept their money. CVC will not play or support spaces that naturalize aggression and acts of discrimination towards our culture or people. CVC firmly believes that playing Latinx music is part of our heritage and of visualizing cultural diversity in the country. . We are grateful to our supporters for their loyalty and ongoing encouragement & sincerely apologize for inadvertently putting them in an unwelcoming and exclusionary environment. We are eager to move forward and continue our mission to create safe spaces of empowerment and togetherness for our community. . Find our full statement and video online, link 👆🏾
In a post on the club’s Facebook page, representatives from Caroline characterized the situation as “a miscommunication at the end of their set, which led to the musicians leaving feeling unappreciated.”
“Our hotel welcomes everyone, and we enjoy musicians of all backgrounds and styles. We truly regret Chulita Vinyl Club left feeling otherwise, and would like to work with them to discuss how we can ensure a similar incident doesn’t happen again,” the post continues.
“It’s not that we left feeling like that. They just did not welcome us,” Aparicio said. “If they didn’t want Latin music, then they shouldn’t go with a crew that the name even says, it’s in Spanish.”
Aparicio said the crowd composition Friday changed through the evening. It was “very white” in the beginning “but by the end it switched to more Latinx and people of color on the dance floor,” she said. She said people had moved a few tables to create more room to dance.
At the end of the night, Aparicio said the managers asked her group not to “go to the media,” but she felt stung by the situation on several levels including the way the hotel has incorporated Latin elements in their menu and decor.
“Their menu has tacos and drinks in Spanish and (they have) Acapulco chairs. They’re clearly trying to have the culture, but not wanting to accept the culture,” she said. “You got scared when you saw people of color dancing.”