UTS bar accused of homophobia

Lanie Tindale

 

Two men were kicked out of UTS bar The Loft while kissing, in what they say was homophobic discrimination.  

 

20-year-olds Nathaniel Holdsworth and Andrew Brophy were on their second date at The Loft bar on 28 June 2019. 

 

Nathaniel, who works in film, and hairdressing apprentice Andrew were swaying closely when a security guard in a red jacket approached them. 

 

Nathaniel says the security guard began “separating us, mimicking us, claiming we were drunk.”

 

The men claim the security guard told them they had too much to drink. 

 

Andrew claims the security guard told him he was asked to “keep an eye” on the couple by another security guard. The guard told them if they argued with him, they would be banned from the venue, the couple alleged. 

 

“[We] were both level headed and weren’t seeming [sic] intoxicated at all,” says Andrew. 

 

The men moved to another area in the public access corridor near the stage door. They began to kiss. The red-clothed security guard came up to them and told them to leave. 

 

“I felt rage … and dismay that our moment had been ruined,” says Nathaniel.

 

“It’s always embarrassing getting kicked out of somewhere but even more so when you’re feeling exposed for kissing someone,” Andrew says. “It was more a surprise that it was happening in a bar with pride adverts around it.”

 

The men’s friends were outside and convened around them as they were escorted out. Friend of the couple Rebecca Tafra says she saw them outside with the security guard after being evicted. 

 

“Nathaniel was obviously upset,” Rebecca says. “The bouncer said they’d been asked to leave as they were ‘showing signs of [intoxication]’.We’d come as a group and were all barely tipsy at this point.”

 

Rebecca says she and her friend spoke to The Loft’s manager, telling them the incident “was a homophobic discriminatory act.”

 

Rebecca says she was told a bartender had asked the security to keep an eye on Nathaniel and Andrew as “she thought they looked intoxicated…The bartender had apparently said it was not her intention for them to be kicked out.”

 

Nathaniel and Andrew were let back into the bar. Andrew says the bartender and manager, “apologised for what happened once they realised what was going on…They were lovely.”

 

ActivateUTS, which operates The Loft bar, told Vertigo the removal of the men “was due to a miscommunication between our bar supervisor and security guard, who had actually been asked to escort Nathaniel and his friend away from our stage door which is off limits to customers due to the extensive AV equipment in the area. Unfortunately the security guard misunderstood his instructions as being to escort Nathaniel from our venue …”

 

Rebecca says the bar manager did not mention “anything about AV equipment” on the night of the incident. 

 

Nathaniel posted about the incident on Facebook the following evening. The Loft commented on a Facebook post, asking him to contact them. 

 

In an email to Nathaniel seen by Vertigo, a representative for ActivateUTS said: 

 

 “[B]oth Activate and UTS take these allegations very seriously and … they have been reported to the senior executive …

 

We understand that you felt you were being discriminated against, but that certainly wasn’t our intention and we apologise if this caused you distress.” 

 

They told Nathaniel staff “are going to be made aware of our anti-discrimination policy” and they have “requested the security guard who first spoke to you does not return to our venues.”

 

Nathaniel says he feels “gaslighted” by ActivateUTS’ response. “I feel like the trauma inflicted on me that night is not being empathised with. I feel I’m being treated with disrespect, like I’m overreacting.”

 

He says the incident has impacted his mental health. “[T]his event drove me to publicly comment on my sexuality in a space where certain family members would inevitably see. This past week I have felt myself drifting back into depression.”

 

Andrew says he doesn’t blame The Loft for the incident. Nathaniel told Vertigo he wants ActivateUTS to “step up and acknowledge what was done.” He wants a public apology, and for ActivateUTS to ensure security have anti-discrimination training.

 

Former UTS Queer Collective Officer, UTS student and community activist Dashie Prasad has followed up on the incident with ActivateUTS after seeing Nathaniel’s Facebook post shared by a mutual friend. 

  

Dashie spoke to the UTS Equity and Diversity Unit’s LGBTI officer, Jessica McGowan, who arranged a meeting with ActivateUTS Marketing and Communications Director, Janice Ly, to discuss the incident on Thursday 11th July. Dashie Prasad and Queer Collective Officers Rhiannon Soliman and Beth Williams were also scheduled to be in attendance. 

 

ActivateUTS Chief Operations Officer Kerry-Ann Plant declined to attend the meeting via email, stating: 

“Unfortunately, I am unavailable to attend this meeting. I am also not clear what this meeting is expecting to achieve … there has clearly been no discrimination involved.”

 

The meeting was cancelled as Jessica McGowan was sick on the day. As of time of publication, the meeting has not been rescheduled. 

 

ActivateUTS told Vertigo they conducted “a full investigation” into the incident. They say they reviewed security footage and interviewed staff and found no evidence of discrimination.

 

“While all ActivateUTS staff are educated on our organisational values and related policies, we will ensure any staff requiring training in this area are addressed. 

 

We have extended an invite to Nathaniel to meet with our CEO to discuss his concerns and are always open to feedback on how we can ensure we are creating a safe and welcoming environment for all customers.”