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Poolhall faults gay patrons for homophobic outburst

A recent University Of Toronto grad is considering a human rights complaint against a downtown poolhall after a homophobic incident last month.

Stephen Zborovski says he and a friend were playing a late night game of pool at Annex Club Billiards at Bloor and Bathurst on Apr 24 when the pair was told their conversation was offending a nearby player.

“Basically my friend Jake Ruiter and I had been playing pool for about an hour and talking when another guy came in and started playing next to us,” says Zborovski. “We were talking about boys and dating… when all of a sudden, the guy beside us turns to us and says ‘Give me a break.’

“The guy then went to talk to someone at the front and came back telling us how he shouldn’t have to listen to that perverted and disgusting stuff and how our behaviour is causing the spread of AIDS,” says Zborovski.

According to both Zborovski and Annex Billiards staff, the disgruntled patron then packed up his table and left.

Zborovski says he and Ruiter were continuing with their game when Annex Billiards owner Carlos Martins approached them.

“A representative came up to us and told us there were signs posted around the poolhall saying foul language is not allowed and we should be respectful to other players,” Zborovski says. “We explained to him that we were absolutely not using foul language. I think the strongest word I used was ‘sex’…. I certainly didn’t say anything that I wouldn’t say in front of a 12-year-old. He then told us that this is a family place and he wanted to keep it that way.

“What bothers me the most is using the term ‘family’ to exclude me,” says Zborovski, “because family is something that is very important to me. In this day and age, everyone has a right to family.”

Zborovski says he asked Martins whether the complaint was based on homophobia, to which the owner responded, “Call it what you will.”

But Brian Short, who identified himself as an Annex Billards representative, says there was a misunderstanding.

“Carlos assumed the two guys were referring to the [disgruntled patron] as homophobic when they said, ‘Well, this is homophobic,'” says Short. “Carlos never meant it as his views coming from him. He merely said, ‘If you want to call it that, okay.’

“Carlos does not discriminate. He welcomes everybody,” says Short. “It’s a very safe and pleasant place to play and a large part of that is because of how Carlos runs it. There are no problems there, no fights, anything. But if the two guys were talking out loud enough for the guy next to them to hear them, it wouldn’t have mattered if the talk was heterosexual talk or anything else. If it’s loud or sexual, it’s policy to look into it.”

“We want to have a place where everyone feels comfortable,” says Annex Billiards manager Dennis, who declined to give his last name. “We have regular customers and if they complain, we’ll investigate it.”

Dennis says after Martins spoke with Zborovski and Ruiter, the two men left on their own accord. “We never asked them to leave. And they weren’t kicked out. They just got up and left.”

Rick Telfer, the general manager of the University Of Toronto Students’ Union, says the union is interested in showing support for Zborovski, who is a recent graduate of U of T and former staff at the union.

“The union came up with the idea of perhaps organizing a ‘gay-in’ at Annex Billiards,” says Telfer. “The idea would be to get a lot of people going there at once to show their support for Stephen.

“I hope that the manager at the establishment will take into consideration that sometimes people are targeted because of who they are,” adds Telfer. “Frankly, for one patron to call another perverse or disgusting because of his sexual orientation is obviously quite troubling.”