A gay couple in Mimico, Toronto have spoken out over an incident where they were “embarrassed” and “humiliated” by a waitress who told them they cannot sit together, accusing them of indecent behaviour and of touching one another.
Bram Zeidenberg, 25, and his partner Jamie Berardi, 22, received support from several dozen Mimico residents at a park in Lake Shore Boulevard on Sunday, after their story “went viral” on Facebook with more than 8,000 hits and 115 comments.
Mr Zeidenberg, co-founder of Lakeshore Villages’ LGBT community, told Toronto Star the incident happened last spring when he and Mr Berardi were planning the community’s first Pride event over breakfast at the popular Mimico restaurant ‘Canadiana.’
He said they were sitting together looking at an open laptop on the table, having just finished eating.
“We were waiting for members of the BIA (Business Improvement Area) to join us when a waitress in a loud and snarly voice told us that we could do whatever we want in the privacy of our homes, but that this is a family restaurant and that we can’t sit together,” he said.
The restaurant owner Stefanos Stavropoulos denied these claims however, saying two different waitresses told him they had “their hands between (each others’) legs” and were kissing each other on the mouth and neck.
Mr Zeidenberg said: “I may have been leaning over to look at the screen, but there was certainly nothing going on. Everyone was looking at us. It was very embarrassing. It was humiliating.”
Sunday’s gathering in the park drew sympathy for the couple all around. They held a solidarity picnic across from the restaurant, drew chalk flowers, and waved rainbow flags.
Local resident Laura Baughman said: “We just love the area and we think it should be a great place to live for everyone.”
Although Mr Stavropoulos denies homophobia had anything to do with they way the couple was treated, claiming his “door is open for everyone,” Mr Zeidenberg added he previously tried to “clear the air” by asking the restaurant owner for an apology.
But Mr Stavropoulos again accused him of behaving inappropriately and told him to “leave his relationship at home.”
Mr Zeidenberg said: “That was when we decided something had to be done.”
The couple then followed up by posting their story on to Facebook, which went viral last week.
In an interview Sunday, Mr Stavropoulos said: “I don’t understand why they didn’t complain the same day” if they had done nothing inappropriate.
On whether he was anti-gay he added: “I’d never say anything, it’s not my business. I don’t have a problem with anybody.”
Mr Zeidenberg and Mr Berardi bth moved into the area several years ago for the affordable rent and to be close to school.
Michael Laxer, who owns Community Roots Books, said: “Bram and Jamie have worked hard to raise awareness in the area.”
Attending the park event, he added: “They have done a lot of good things in the community and when I heard about this, I had to come out and show my support.”
Earlier this month, several houses in Toronto with gay pride flags flown in front of them were hit with homophobic vandalism, including graffiti, having dog excrement thrown at them and having car tyres slashed.
Graffiti included sentiments such as “be happy not gay”, as several houses in the west of the city were struck.
“We contacted police, they considered it a hate crime,” he said. “We learned then there were a couple of other houses that experienced it.”