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Police in Wilton Manors, Florida, are investigating after a local business owner allegedly spat in the face of a gay bartender who asked him to wear a face mask.
Shane Cullinan, who bartends at LGBTQ bar The Pub, posted on his Facebook earlier this month claiming that a man had spat in his face after being repeatedly told to follow the bar’s face mask policy.
Local business owner Gary Bouvier, who owns the Wilton Wings restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, later issued an apology on Facebook, blaming his “out-of-character behavior” on alcohol, WSVN reports.
The Pub has signs outside the bar telling patrons that face masks must be worn, in addition to social distancing, but Bouvier reportedly refused to wear a mask inside the premises. Cullinan said on Facebook that Bouvier also tried to “come behind the bar looking for a restroom.”
“I told him it was on the other side and he needed to put his mask on while walking around,” he wrote. “[Bouvier] said, ‘You don’t know who I am, and fuck off.'”
Cullinan continued: “I followed him to near the bathroom and told him the masks [were] to protect others and he needed to wear one while walking about. Again, he said ‘you don’t know who I am and to fuck your mom.'”
Bouvier reportedly accused Cullinan of assaulting him in the bathroom while continuing to shout profanities and saying “you don’t know who I am.”
“Probably about 7 minutes later he comes in from outside, actually has a mask on, pulls it down and spits in my face,” Cullinan wrote. “He says, ‘Fuck off and you messed with the wrong person.'”
Cullinan said he was “completely in shock,” as was Bouvier’s wife. “This man spit in my face and put my life at risk and other patrons who were around the area. Spit stays in the air for a while.”
Bouvier reportedly fled the scene after bar staff called police.
“It’s crazy to me that someone would do that to another human being, let alone someone in the business,” Cullinan wrote. “It’s been emotional and the most disrespectful/disgusting thing I have ever experienced in my lifetime in this business. I have been in this business [for] almost 25 years.”
Cullinan said the alleged attack “hit home” for him because he had a close friend with no preexisting conditions who died after contracting COVID-19.
Mike Connell, owner of The Pub, corroborated Cullinan’s account in an interview with WSVN, noting that the bar is “very strong on protecting our customers and our associates, and we have very strict rules.”
Of the interaction between Cullinan and Bouvier, Connell said, “Shane, a bartender, who said, ‘You can’t be walking around without your mask.’ He got very, very arrogant, started swearing, et cetera.”
He continued: “He] pulls his mask down and comes directly and spits in Shane’s face. Terrible disrespect to him, especially in the environment we live in today, and especially that a local business owner on the drive would stoop that low to do that. Whatever Shane’s decision is to go forward with prosecution, and I will tell you the case is still open.”
Bouvier posted an apology to his Facebook page after news broke of the incident, blaming alcohol consumption for his behavior.
“I consumed too much alcohol and engaged in out-of-character behavior for which I profoundly regret,” he wrote. “I hope that I may demonstrate that one moment of poor judgment does not define who I am. I deeply apologize to Shane.”
According to WSVN, local police are reviewing surveillance footage from The Pub, and will be submitting any evidence to the state attorney’s office.
Since Cullinan shared his account of the incident, a boycott of Bouvier’s restaurant has been organized, led by the Facebook page “Boycott Wilton Wings & Stop Gary Bouvier from Assaulting Others.”
Cullinan ended his Facebook post by urging people to take COVID-19 seriously and respect the health and wellbeing of hospitality workers.
“I need people to know that we are doing are best to protect people and keep people safe. You may have had [COVID-19] or think it’s not a big deal. However, If you don’t want to follow guidelines, then stay the fuck home,” he wrote. “Don’t get mad at others because they are trying to protect others. Use common sense. This virus is not going anywhere and the numbers are skyrocketing. It’s up to us to protect our community. Wear a fucking mask and treat your hospitality industry with respect.”
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