Watch: Bronx Married Couple Told to Leave Restaurant by Anti-LGBTQ Worker

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday January 19, 2021

Watch: Bronx Married Couple Told to Leave Restaurant by Anti-LGBTQ Worker
  (Source:Screen cap / News 12)

A married couple say they were told to leave a local eatery because a worker didn't like the fact that they were gay, reports local news station News 12.

Nelson Ayala and his husband Jamel Brown Jr. were told "Man, woman" repeatedly after an employee at the restaurant, La Isla Cuchifrito, saw them behaving affectionately with each other on the evening of Jan. 15.

The employee also told the men that her own family observed "different customs," the news station reported. She told the men to leave, but other employees did nothing to back her up; cell phone video the men took of the incident shows one of the woman's co-workers gesturing dismissively.

The men decided to leave, though, and told workers at the eatery to cancel their order, News 12 reported. They then phone the police to report the incident.

Wikipedia notes that an ordinance known as the New York City Human Rights Law "prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on race, color, creed, age, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, gender (including gender identity and sexual harassment), sexual orientation, disability, marital status, and partnership status."

The woman tried to apologize at that point, News 12 reported, but the men rejected her apology as insincere. They can be heard saying as much in the cell phone video, while the woman repeats that she is sorry.

Brown told News 12 that the treatment the men received from the restaurant worker was "just mind-blowing," while his husband, Ayala, added, "Who I love shouldn't define where I shop or eat at. I came here to get service, not to get judged."

The employee was fired, News 12 reported in a follow-up report, with manager Elizabeth Ocasio telling the news station, "as soon as we found out what happened, we terminated her."

Ocasio - who, the news report said, did not want her face to be seen on television and kept her back to the camera while talking to the station's reporter - emphasized that the restaurant does not "condone what happened in this restaurant," and added that the eatery had "never had a problem in this community."

However, Ocasio went on to say, it wasn't the men's sexual orientation that led to them being told to leave - rather, she claimed it was "because tensions were escalating," News 12 reported.

Brown and Ayala vowed in comments to News 12 not to return to the restaurant - not as customers, anyway; the men did return on Jan. 17, when they "held a rally outside the restaurant," the follow-up story said. The restaurant's owner offered an apology and a free meal, which the couple rebuffed.

"We are not hungry," Brown told the news station, going on to say that the restaurant's workers needed to be trained to "treat people with respect just like they would want to be treated with respect behind the counter."

Ocasio said that the problem lay not with the establishment's staff as a whole, but "only one person, one employee, and she's not here no more."

To see the news clip, follow this link.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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