Metro Weekly

Gay couple says they were attacked at Phoenix bar due to their sexual orientation

Bar manager rejects claims that the incident was started because of an altercation over victims' sexual orientation.

gay, couple, phoenix, bar, attack
The Golden Margarita in Phoenix – Photo: Facebook.

A gay couple in Arizona claims they were attacked at a downtown Phoenix bar on April 11 because of their sexual orientation. 

An Instagram post from an account named gayprideapparel, which has since been removed, shared a video from Rudy Haro, one of the victims, saying that he and Fernando De Los Reyes Lugo had gone downtown to celebrate De Los Reyes’ birthday and their anniversary and were “attacked by a lot of straight men.” The video showed De Los Reyes with blood stains on his shirt.

“One of the guys who assaulted us did have a gun he was trying to pull out until my friend started screaming for help. People were laughing instead of helping,” the caption for the Instagram post said. The post also claimed the back of Haro’s head was swollen and that De Los Reyes had a possible fractured nose.

According to the Arizona Republic, the men had gone to The Golden Margarita in downtown Phoenix, and Haro entered the bar while De Los Reyes went outside to retrieve his ID from the car.

While Haro was trying to get a drink, another patron told him he “couldn’t be there.” Haro didn’t understand, and thought he may have missed seeing a sign. But the person continued to tell him he couldn’t be there, and told him “they don’t do that gay s*** here.”

Haro was then pushed outside and hit in the head, although he’s unclear about who actually assaulted him. De Los Reyes returned at the time, and was also assaulted.

The two men called police, complaining that the bar’s security had “failed to protect them.” But civil rights advocates speaking on behalf of the couple say the four Phoenix police officers who initially responded to the scene were dismissive and did not take the allegations seriously.

A spokesperson for the Phoenix police department confirmed that officers had responded to reports of a fight at the bar around 1 a.m. on April 12,  and Phoenix fire personnel had treated the men for their injuries.

Phoenix police confirmed that their bias crime detectives are investigating the incident, with a spokesperson telling ABC15 that several witnesses were contacted, but were unable to corroborate what prompted the assault.

Officers reportedly talked to a woman accused of hitting one of the men. She claimed they had been sitting in an area reserved for a private party, and a fight broke out when they refused to leave.

Police say they tried to obtain a description of the men who had assaulted the couple, but claim that Haro and De Los Reyes were too intoxicated to provide additional information.

See also: Missouri couple claimed they were attacked outside a casino for being gay

On the Saturday following the incident, the West Valley NAACP and the Unity Collective, an umbrella group comprised of various civil rights organizations, held a news conference outside The Golden Margarita on the couple’s behalf, calling on the Phoenix Police Department to fully and thoroughly investigate the matter, and calling on local businesses to protect, and not to discriminate against, LGBTQ customers.

“[The victims] said they were not welcome here because they were gay. One of them was then hit in the head. The fight ensued and they moved outside the bar where they were both continually assaulted by a group of men,” Sarah Tyree, the criminal justice chair for the West Valley NAACP, said during the news conference, according to Phoenix-based TV station ABC15. “As you would expect, the couple has taken this very hard. Nobody deserves to be assaulted, specifically for being themselves.”

Tyree added that “being intoxicated is not illegal and it is also not a reason not to have aid rendered to you, it is not a reason for law enforcement to (not) look into their case.”

Late last Thursday evening, less than two days before the press conference, The Golden Margarita posted a statement as a photo to its Facebook page, with a caption to the photo reading: “Unfortunately, an incident occurred across the street from our place of home with 2 separate parties that were patrons that evening … We as a business will never condone racial or sexual prejudice. The incident was neither racial or sexual prejudice, and our staff was not involved … But this is a clarification on our end.”

See also: Three men arrested for allegedly attacking gay couple for holding hands

In the actual statement, The Golden Margarita said: “To whom it may concern, but especially to the LGBTQ+ community, we sincerely apologize for any actions that may have occurred at The Golden Margarita… Here at The Golden Margarita we are big on having a welcoming environment open to people from all walks of life! We do not and will never discriminate against anybody, either it be for their sexual orientation or racial background. We have multiple people on staff that are part of the LGBTQ+ community as well as from different racial backgrounds.

“We have done an internal investigation with our owners as well as our upper management to rectify any issue to prevent any issues from occurring in the future! To the parties that were involved we give our sincerest apologies,” the statement continued. “We will learn and grow from this.”

Albert Meeks, a bottle service manager at the bar, who is Black and gay, told ABC15 his understanding is that the altercation between customers started over an issue involving personal space, not any derogatory anti-gay comment, as the victims have alleged.

Meeks also noted that while the initial altercation may have started at the bar, the fight ultimately spilled out across the street from the bar, where security personnel would have no authority to intervene.

“In this situation, we all could have done better, but when things happen outside of our venue, we are not liable for anything that happens outside of our venue,” Meeks said in a video posted to Instagram, according to the Republic

Meeks also said The Golden Margarita issued its Facebook statement to reassure members of the LGBTQ community that they were welcome, saying: “[W]e want everybody to know that we are all-inclusive and it’s not a hate crime or any type of situation like that.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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