News & Politics

Little Miss Whiskey’s Owner Thinks Carrying Breast Milk in a Purse is “Absurd”

Photograph via iStock.

On Saturday night, a relatively new mother of twins pumped breast milk after going out to dinner, stuck a small bottle of her milk in her purse, and tried to go to Little Miss Whiskey’s on H Street with a group of friends. When the bouncer searched her bag, he didn’t like what he found. “No disrespect for your condition,” he said, according to a letter written by the mom’s friend, a DC attorney, first published in PoPville. “But this is a bar. Why would you bring that here? It’s weird.”

The mom’s name is Whitney Bakke. She’s a 32-year-old Arlington resident who works for DC Public Schools. She stands by her friend’s statement, which has garnered over 300 comments—a mix of outrage toward and defenses of the business—since Monday afternoon. Bakke was originally hesitant to speak to reporters, but after seeing the bar owner’s response, she wanted to explain what actually happened.

The owner of Little Miss Whiskey’s, Mark Thorp, denied that the bouncer said the statement quoted in the letter, going on to defend his employees’ handling of what he called “a bizarre circumstance” in an emailed statement. He says that because the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) prohibits patrons from bringing in outside drinks, the bouncer had the right to turn Bakke away.

Although the manager eventually offered to keep the breast milk behind the bar, Bakke and her friends decided to leave and go to the Rock and Roll Hotel. Bakke says the bouncer there looked at the breast milk, nodded at her, and let her in.

After the PoPville article, Little Miss Whiskey’s tweeted the following:

“Does anybody ever wonder why a bar should have to deal with the absurd issue of some woman trying to bring ‘breast milk’ into it in the first place?” Thorp wrote in an email to PoPville editor Dan Silverman that he, apparently by mistake, forwarded to Washingtonian. In that email, he also referred to one of Bakke’s friends as the “LEADER OF THE BREAST MILK BRIGADE.” 

So do Thorp’s quotes around “breast milk” mean he thinks the bouncer couldn’t have known that the liquid wasn’t alcohol? According to the agreement between Little Miss Whiskey’s and its Advisory Neighborhood Commission, there is a stipulation that says the business “agrees to ensure that no patron bring alcohol into the establishment from outside sources.” Exceptions such as breast milk are not spelled out, but because DC law allows women to express milk in a public or private space, it seems extremely unlikely that the bar would incur a violation for allowing someone to bring in breast milk. “District alcohol laws and regulations are silent on this issue” says ABRA spokesperson Jessie Cornelius.

But the potential for an alcohol license violation isn’t the problem here. Neither is the question of what the bouncer said. It’s the fact that Thorp considers it “absurd” that a breastfeeding woman should carry breast milk. That tone feeds the societal taboo surrounding breastfeeding.

“This just shows how far we still have to go in educating the public about breastfeeding,” Bakke says. “It’s the most natural thing in the world. Theres nothing bizarre about it.” She adds: “I’m not trying to be any leader of the breast-milk movement. It was just a weird and surprising thing that happened to me.”

In his statement, Thorp also says the respect the bouncer and manager, who are brothers, have for their mother proves they wouldn’t have made an ugly remark. “I know Marc’s and Gregg’s mother is an impressively accomplished woman…for whom they have tremendous respect. She raised her sons to treat people with respect, which I know because they have spoken of it and because they act like it,” he wrote.

Two of Bakke’s friends appear to disagree. Thorp says one of them yelled, “You will never have another woman in this bar again after today,” before leaving. They also left their lasting mark on Little Miss Whiskey’s Yelp page with these one-star reviews:

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Web producer/writer

Greta started as an editorial fellow in January 2016 and joined as a full-time staff member that August. She now works as a web producer and writer. She was previously an intern at Slate and National Geographic and graduated from the University of Missouri’s Journalism School. She lives in Adams Morgan.