A dinner and awards ceremony for a queer bowling league was allegedly disrupted by harassment from security guards.
Attendees at the Toronto Historical Bowling Society (THBS) event, held May 10 at the Arcadian Court in the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) building at 401 Bay St, say guards continually followed men into the washroom and kicked out one man they insisted was snorting coke.
“I just went into the washroom and I noticed this guy following me in,” says Alan Smith. “I thought it was a little odd because I’m an adult and I don’t need supervision.
“I said, ‘Can I help you?’ He said, ‘I’m security.’ Why wasn’t there a security guard going into the women’s washroom?”
David Hawe, who attended the event as a guest, says the guards seemed obsessed with the men’s washroom.
“The security guys had wedged open the door to the bathroom so there was no privacy,” he says. “They were just really gung ho about watching the washroom.”
Adam Beaudoin — who works for Cruiseline, which is owned by Pink Triangle Press, the publisher of Xtra — says the guards forced him to leave the event after accusing him of using cocaine in a washroom stall.
“I went to a washroom stall to use it for what it was intended for,” he says. “My allergies were bothering me so I blew my nose. While I was in the stall I heard the guard call for backup because there was a ‘situation.'”
Beaudoin says when he came out of the stall the guard confronted him.
“He said, ‘I’m going to have to ask you to leave,'” Beaudoin says. “I asked why. He said, ‘Do you think I’m stupid? You’ve been doing blow.'”
Beaudoin says he explained he had allergies and even offered to let the guard search him. He says the guard refused and ordered Beaudoin to leave.
Beaudoin says THBS has held the event at the same location for a number of years without any previous problems.
But Smith says he was told by a bartender at the event that HBC had sent a memo to employees pointing out the dinner would be attended by gay men.
“He told me it was posted that it was a gay event,” says Smith. “There’s people there who are 80 years old. It’s not a rave or anything. They gave out trophies and had a meal. You couldn’t get any more tame.”
Hawe agrees the guards had no reason to be suspicious.
“These aren’t leather guys or circuit guys high on something,” he says. “These guys are dressed up, some wearing suits. I don’t know what sort of gangbang they thought was going to happen but they really spoiled the night for these guys.”
Smith says people were so upset by the guards that many of them left early, before the DJ started playing music.
“When people got upset and started leaving I thought, ‘That’s enough,'” he says. “I asked the catering manager what was going on. He said, ‘It’s private property. We can do anything we want.'”
A spokesperson for HBC says the company will look into the complaints.
“It sounds unusual,” says Hillary Marshall, the director of corporate communications for HBC. “We’re going to investigate the matter fully and expeditiously. We usually engage an outside investigator to ensure that things are fair and balanced. As you can understand a lot of times it’s ‘He said, she said.'”
Marshall says HBC is very supportive of the queer community.
“It would be untrue and unfair to claim that HBC has any prejudice toward the gay community,” she says. “We do not have any negative bias toward the gay community in any way. We’ve been involved in a number of gay events, including Pride. We’re proud to be involved with the community.”
Marshall did not respond to a later question about the alleged memo.
Smith says he would discourage any queer groups from holding their events at the Arcadian Court.
“I really don’t think it’s a great venue to host an event,” he says. “My question is would you treat us the same way if it was a bar mitzvah or a wedding?”
Beaudoin says he has sent a letter of complaint to HBC and to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
“I was threatened that if I didn’t leave police will be called and I would be arrested.” he wrote. “I felt that the security discriminated against me because I was gay and had prejudices that all gay men did drugs or were deviants of some sort.”