A man in Whitehorse says he was kicked out of a straight bar and detained by police after the doorman accused him of viewing porn as he was checking gay hookup sites on his laptop.
Owen Williams says he was at the Gold Pan Saloon in the Gold Rush Inn in December when he checked the hookup apps Grindr and Scruff and visited the sites Manhunt and RealJock. He says the doorman told him not to watch “gay porn,” then had him removed from the building for drunk and disorderly conduct.
Then staff called the police.
“I do think it was a knee-jerk homophobic reaction,” Williams says.
Williams says a police officer handcuffed him, put him in the back of a police car and told him he couldn’t show naked people in a public setting.
Williams says he demanded the officer write down the reason for his detention. The officer eventually complied but refused to sign the statement, Williams says.
According to Williams, the officer’s unsigned statement says, “Do not display pictures of naked people in a public setting.”
Williams admits he got cheeky with the officer when he found out their conversation in the police car wasn’t being recorded. “I said, ‘Are you free after work?’” Williams recalls.
John Robertson, the general manager of the Gold Rush Inn, wasn’t present during the incident but says his staff told him Williams was drunk and was switching between various websites, including sites that showed men’s genitals.
“There definitely was porn,” Robertson claims.
He says the doorman asked Williams to move to the corner but Williams refused. The doorman then asked Williams to leave but he again refused, Robertson says. “It’s not a homophobic issue or anything like that. It’s the patron himself,” he says.
While he was detained in the police car, Williams says, some friends passed by and intervened on his behalf, “hugging the cop car and demanding that I be released.”
Williams says the police officer unlocked the handcuffs and let him go without charges.
Sergeant Don Rogers, media relations officer for the Whitehorse RCMP, confirms a police officer was called to the bar on that date but won’t comment further for privacy reasons because no charges were filed.
Williams admits he returned to the bar later that night, intoxicated, to continue checking his online messages.
Robertson says surveillance video shows Williams throwing around papers. Employees filed an incident report, which, Robertson says, indicates Williams was verbally abusive.
When he returned to the bar with three friends on Feb 23, Williams says, he was presented with a barring order, prohibiting his entry. The barring order says he was verbally abusive to bar staff, hassled patrons in the lounge, caused a scene, watched porn on his laptop and refused to stop. It bars him until the end of this year. If he enters the bar before the order expires, police could be notified and he could face charges.
Williams admits he was obnoxious to staff on his return visit. But he challenges the original reason for his removal. The bar is an adult environment, he says, so he should be able to check sites such as Manhunt.
Robertson says he’s heard that Williams has posted information on social media sites that the bar is homophobic. But the bar has gay and lesbian staff and customers, he says, adding, “people hopefully will discredit him.”
The Yukon Liquor Board recently upheld Williams’ barring order from the Gold Pan Saloon. Chair Wayne Cousins says the board merely determines whether a person violated the liquor act. A person can be barred for being intoxicated, riotous, quarrelsome, violent, disorderly or profane, or for contravening the law.
Williams tells Xtra he’s now seeking legal counsel for a possible human rights case. “The issue I have is whether or not using gay social networks is considered socially inappropriate,” he says.
“I understand why the staff of the Gold Rush may have behaved the way they did, though I still consider the initial reaction of the doorman to be homophobic, or at the very least a prejudgment of my character,” he says.
“I’d rather find a non-confrontational approach and generate understanding than causing stigma on any side,” he adds.