Hate crime probe launched after men ‘told they can’t kiss in pub and to leave’

An investigation has been launched into an alleged hate crime after two men were told they cannot kiss in a pub, before being asked to leave.

Ryan Sanderson, 23, claims he and his friend were approached by a member of staff who said "two men can't kiss in this pub."

The friends had been sitting in The Tontine in Hanley when the alleged hate crime took place, Stoke-on-Trent Live reports.

In addition to this, Mr Sanderson and his friend received abuse from other customers, he says.

StokeonTrentLive telephoned the pub, but the person they spoke to declined to comment.

Mr Sanderson said: "The member of staff said ‘two men can’t kiss in this pub’. He said it was just not good for us if we did it there and it might upset people.

“I was shocked and couldn't believe it. You would expect that kind of thing in the 1940s. Last orders had already been called and I said I would finish my drink and we would go because I didn’t want to cause a scene.

"All of a sudden people on a table near us were saying 'this is a straight bar' and telling us to finish our drinks and leave. We were told it was disgusting and that we shouldn't be doing that in public. I said if we were a man and a woman then you would be fine with it, and (a customer) said 'yeah.'

“There were two guys both bouncing off each other's anger and saying various things and a girl was chipping in. There was one woman sitting with them who appeared to be visibly ashamed, but not ashamed enough to tell them that what they were saying was wrong. She mouthed that she was sorry to us.

“I had every right to be there. One of the guys started getting his phone out and ringing people so I thought we were going to get jumped.”

"It’s 2020, so why can’t people just let other people exist? If I want to kiss a boy I should be able to. If you don’t like it, don’t look.”

Ryan walked with his friend to a hotel before going to Tesco for a taxi, reports StokeonTrentLive.

He added: "In my opinion, the pub staff should have stood up for us and said this was a safe space for everybody.

“I was really shaken because I was scared we were going to get beaten up. I will never be going in that pub again and I've said the same thing to all my LGBTQ+ friends.

“It made me scared in Hanley as well because I didn't realise people were that backwards.

“People need to realise that people can love who they like and it literally doesn't affect anyone else other than the people involved. I don’t understand how seeing two people having a good time can offend people.”

The alleged incident happened just days before the second national lockdown.

A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: “We were notified of a reported hate incident at a pub on Tontine Street, in Hanley. Enquiries are ongoing.”

A spokesman for the Tontine in Hanley said: “We’re a friendly local community pub for everyone and we employ and train LGBT staff. The incident, which took place a month ago before lockdown, arose when two groups of customers began having a stand-up altercation, which I now understand was of a homophobic nature, and were not following coronavirus restrictions by not wearing masks whilst standing. All parties were given an initial warning and were asked to quieten down and finish their drinks, but they were eventually asked to leave due to them all ignoring this request. At no time was anybody singled out.”

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