Update: Spur head office has responded with an official statement, which we have published in full at the end of the story.
A Pretoria branch of the Spur restaurant chain threw out and even detained a gay couple for kissing – but was it a case of discrimination?
The Pretoria East Rekord newspaper reports that Kea Maubane (23) and Tshegofatso Mpahlele (26) have accused the Spur in Sunnypark of homophobia.
The men said that they were at the restaurant with three other friends for breakfast on Sunday morning.
“Two of my friends were kissing and talking … making out but not groping or anything like that. After paying the bill, I went to the loo,” said Mphahlele.
When he returned, he found his friends were being confronted about the kissing by a waitress who allegedly called them “disgusting” and said that “the Spur was a family restaurant”.
The waitress apparently refused to call the manager and the dispute escalated. Security guards were called who went on to remove the group from the restaurant and even placed one of the friends into a mall holding cell.
“We were escorted out of the mall by security guards for ‘causing trouble’,” said Mphahlele.
“My friend and I were crying. We felt so violated. What hurt the most is that Spur is known as one of the most gay-friendly restaurants.”
The men have demanded that the Spur apologise for treating them like “second class citizens” and that the chain sensitise their staff in dealing with LGBT customers.
“We did nothing wrong, had it been a straight couple kissing, would they have treated them in the same way they did us?” asked Mphahlele.
Restaurant manager Nelson Gambule, who was out at the time of the incident, told the newspaper that kissing of any kind was prohibited in the family establishment.
“Customers are not allowed to kiss. It has nothing to do with being gay,” he said. Gambule also insisted that group were justifiably escorted out for “misbehaving”.
“Do they think it’s appropriate to insult managers? If they were only kissing, they should have stopped,” he argued.
“We serve a lot of gay customers and this is the first time we have had an incident like this in our six years of operation.”
Spur’s official response:
Customers in question visited Golden Canyon Spur at 9:40am and were seated in the smoking section.
They requested alcohol be served to them while they were eating their breakfast and were declined per Spur/Liquor Law policy until 10am. The fact they were not served alcohol displeased the customers. At 10am the customers ordered their first alcohol. By the time the incident took place the table had ordered 6 bottles of wine.
Upon the payment of the bill, Spur staff noticed one customer on top of another, kissing and groping, behaving in a manner that is considered publicly inappropriate, regardless of sexual preferences.
Numerous other Spur customers (two differing tables) complained to management about the inappropriate behaviour, upon which the manager approached the customers, asking them to cease their behaviour.
Our female manager was met with verbal threats, of being a racist and homophobic. The customers indicated that they would get the manager fired. “I’ll make sure you lose your job” was the verbatim threat. The waitress that was serving the table was in fact gay. Sensing the customers’ aggression the manageress called the mall security in order to assist her.
The customers continued to physically and verbally attack our female manager in front of the mall security. Our manager was then kicked and pushed by these male customers. Mall security then escorted them out of Spur and the mall. Mall security is willing to sign affidavits stating the events that transpired.
Spur is a Family restaurant and treats all patrons equally regardless of sexuality or race; we are well represented by the gay community both in our head office and franchisees. Our long standing support of gay media publications such as OUT Magazine as well as events such as MCQP is self-evident. We are accepting and welcoming to all, however do not tolerate our staff being mistreated and abused in any manner.
In conclusion, the customer’s sexual orientation is not at issue, their conduct is.