A Kelowna lesbian says a local hotel discriminated against her after she kissed her girlfriend in the lounge and was immediately denied further service on Jan 20. The hotel manager agrees that Sue Hillock was denied service but says it’s because she was acting drunk and disorderly.
“We’re four middle-aged professional women who are all lesbian,” says Hillock, an associate professor at UBC Okanagan. “We decided on Friday evening after the hockey game to go to the Vine Lounge at the Delta Grand, where we sat down and ordered some appies and drinks.”
Hillock clams that she and her partner had consumed three drinks over the span of five hours before they entered the bar and were not intoxicated. This statement is corroborated by the other two women, Yvonne Chaperon and her wife, Carla Lundman. Chaperon points out that she had only one drink that evening, and Lundman, the designated driver, hasn’t consumed alcohol for 18 years.
“We were quietly laughing and talking,” says Hillock. “My partner said something funny so I leaned in and gave her a kiss, and because it’s Kelowna and they are very homophobic, I gave her a very chaste kiss.”
Lundman says she observed the kiss — as well as the bar manager’s reaction to the kiss.
“The bar manager basically came by the table and Sue turned and kissed her partner and he had this look of disgust on his face, then he sort of disappeared,” says Lundman.
Hillock says the bar manager then walked over to the bar, spoke with their server and the server came over and began clearing their unfinished food and drinks away.
“I asked for another drink and she said, ‘No, because the manager says we cannot serve you any more alcohol,’” Hillock says.
Lundman says the server was very apologetic.
“She said, ‘I am gay-friendly, I have gay friends and I’m so sorry this is happening to you.’ She apologized to me, but she said it was out of her hands.”
Daniel Bibby, the general manager of the Delta Grand Hotel, says that Hillock was exhibiting visible signs of intoxication that were disruptive to other guests and staff members.
“It started out more kind of loud and boisterous, and that was okay. They just came from a hockey game; they seemed like they were having fun,” says Bibby, who did not witness any of the events himself but says he later received reports from four hotel guests and five staff people who were in the bar that evening.
Bibby says that it was the women’s server who made the decision to stop serving them.
“Our server served a round of drinks to everyone and there was one particular lady in this group was quite over the top. She was swearing, going over to other tables and interacting with them, and not in a positive way.”
At that point, he says, the server approached the bar manager and advised him that she believed Hillock was visibly intoxicated and that they should discontinue serving her more alcohol.
“The manager supported her in that decision, and that’s when it got kind of out of hand,” he says.
Hillock says she asked the bar manager to explain why they were being cut off, but he failed to provide a specific reason. “He couldn’t explain to us or give us any example of there being any problem in our group,” she says. “We weren’t loud or disrupting anyone. The only thing that happened, just two minutes after I kissed her, the server came over and started clearing the plates.” Hillock says she then stood up, approached the surrounding tables and told them what was going on.
“I said, ‘They are kicking us out because we are lesbian women, and you need to know this. You should boycott the Delta, you should know that we were refused service, you should leave without paying.’ Then my partner and I left.”
Bibby claims that one of the women assaulted two employees on her way out.
“One of the ladies actually pushed one of our servers and a manager came to figure out what was going on, and one of them pinned him against the wall,” he says.
Chaperon says the bar manager was standing near the door and that when she passed him she told him, “What goes around comes around.”
“He gave me this really dirty look and grabbed above my hand,” she says. “I grabbed him back and that’s when I heard the shorter server say, ‘I saw that,’ and I said, ‘Did you see him grab me first?’ and she shut up.”
Hillock says she has retained barbara findlay as her lawyer and will proceed with a plan in the coming days.
Elisha Vooys, a server at the restaurant in the hockey arena, says she served Hillock and her partner that night and believed that they had already had a few alcoholic beverages before coming in.
“It was between periods when the bar is super busy,” she said by email. “They felt that they didn’t have to wait in line like everyone else, so they were bothering our well bartender, who told them that they needed to have a server put in a drink order for them. They then turned to me while I was on the computer, busy with a different table, and they just told me their order. I put it in and waited for it to come up because the woman in the Habs jersey [Sue Hillock] kept trying to grab other drinks that were for other servers. They were very affectionate, which did not bother me in the least, but by verbal and physical cues I could tell that they had had a few drinks. So after I gave them their two double drinks, I decided if they returned I would not continue to serve them.”
Vooys says her father is a “proud gay man” and that she grew up with him and his partner in her life. “When my father first came out in 1991, he lost his job due to his sexual orientation. That is real discrimination; this case is just a few women’s inability to take responsibility for their drunken actions,” she alleges.