A Christchurch man says he was kicked out of a bar for kissing his male friend on the dance floor.
By Joy Reid and Irra Lee
Ed Lang told 1 NEWS he was attending a friend’s 30th birthday party at Fat Eddie's in the early hours of Sunday morning when in the "spur of the moment" he and his friend kissed.
“It was not pre-planned, it was not inappropriate. It was what straight people around us do all the time” he says.
Lang says almost immediately he was tapped on the shoulder by a security guard and asked to go outside.
He says he questioned the security guard as to why they had to leave asking: “Is it because we’re gay?”.
He got no reply and was simply told he had to go, he says. Lang says he was grabbed so firmly that his right arm was bruised.
Lang says he had been drinking, but doesn’t believe he was drunk, saying he felt like he was on the "same level as the general crowd in the bar".
He says he was upset by the incident and feels like “I would’ve been treated differently if kissing a woman and that is the root of the issue”.
Lang posted a complaint on the bar’s Facebook page on Sunday. The bar took down the post and asked him to email them directly.
The bar responded later that day promising to investigate further and saying they did not endorse discrimination, he says.
Lang has been told the security guard does not remember the incident but the security firm were discussing it with the employee.
He had a face-to-face meeting today with the bar's owners and the security company's owners to further discuss the issue.
He said he is hoping staff will be asked to undergo base-level diversity training.
"They reiterated that they were very apologetic for how I felt, how they unanimously condemned discrimination in their venues, and that they were launching an investigation with the guard involved.
"Out of it, I'm confident that they're taking my concerns seriously, and that they're wanting to make sure their bars are welcoming spaces.
"In return, I reiterated that I don't have an axe to grind with them, and that I just want people to feel safe heading out."
The owner responds
Max Bremner, co-owner of Oxford Group which runs Fat Eddie’s, disputes Lang’s account of the situation.
He tells 1 NEWS the investigation found there were “complaints from others on the dance floor” about Lang’s “overzealous dancing”, which was disturbing others around him.
“This was the one - and the only - reason the patron was asked to leave,” Bremner says.
The investigation also found there was “no evidence” Lang was removed because he kissed another man, Bremner says.
“We want people to have a great time, but they have to do it safely and not make other people feel unsafe. That’s why we acted to remove the patron who had been the subject of the complaint.
“Unfortunately it’s the nature of our business that people’s perception of what’s occurred in crowded bars and on the dancefloor, often also involving alcohol, doesn’t always match up to the account provided by our sober staff.
“In these instances we are more than happy to review events and to sit down at a later date with the patron to explain what happened and why we took the action we did.”
He confirmed he met with Lang earlier today. During the meeting, he says he told Lang the reason he was removed was because of his dancing.
“The patron concerned has advised us that he now understands why he was asked to leave and says he has no issue with Fat Eddie’s.”
When 1 NEWS spoke with Lang again after the meeting, Lang disputed that his dancing was the reason he was kicked out.
He says it was a “complete falsehood” that his dancing was responsible because he was “standing still at the time, and there was no dancing”.
Lang says he couldn’t think of anything else he’d done but kiss his friend at the moment he was taken outside.
1 NEWS spoke to Bremner again.
Bremner says he wasn't saying Lang was drunk when the incident happened, but says he was drinking.
He says the situation had come down to Lang’s word against the doorman’s and his staff, and he was only aware about what he'd been told.
He says he stood by what his staff had told him.
Lang may have been standing still at the moment he was evicted, but there had been complaints from others before that, Bremner says.
“My staff know that at any time that behaviour that they’ve been accused of would lead to dismissal straight away.
“If we find any evidence that was the case, then they would be dismissed on the spot."
But, no evidence was found, so there wasn't a case in the first place, Bremner says.
Bremner also says in his years using the security company, they had "never let us down in the past".
He says Lang’s post was removed from Facebook because social media users were leaving “disgusting messages” and staff were receiving hate mail.
"It wasn’t fair because we hadn’t done anything wrong."
Bremner says in his about 25 years operating hospitality businesses, he's never had an issue until now.