Orlando bar says security video proves they were falsely accused of hate crime

(Photos courtesy Sue-Bee Laginess)

ORLANDO | After a gay couple accused McQueens Social Lounge of assault and possible hate crime, the club says their security footage clearly shows that is not the case.

Alfredo Toledo and Austin Young told Watermark that they had been assaulted by security while celebrating Toledo’s birthday at McQueens Sept. 23. The couple said the incident led to Toledo being kicked in the face and knocked into Young, causing them both to tumble down the stairs.

“He wasn’t even involved,” Toledo said of the man who kicked him. “He didn’t know what was going on, he never asked what was going on. He just kicked me down the stairs.” During the initial interview, both Toledo and Young identified McQueens owner Matt Terrasi as that individual but later recanted it saying they identified the man through Instagram and mistook the person in the photo as Terrasi, but Terrasi says that isn’t the only thing Toledo and Young got wrong.

“Reviewing the security footage revealed a story much different than what was originally reported,” Terrasi said in an email to Watermark. “We shared the video with the Orlando Police Department as part of their ongoing investigation.”

Speaking with Brendan O’Connor at the Bungalower, Terrasi described what can be seen in the video.

“In the video, you can see the two gentlemen [Young and Toledo] in the group. They were dancing at the back of the bar near the piano and having fun. Which is great. But then it escalated when one [Toledo] was grinding on the other and grabbed [Young] and then got on his knees to seemingly pretend that he was giving oral sex on the dancefloor. A security guard who was immediately adjacent to them helping to polish glassware leaned over from the bar to tell them they couldn’t do that,” Terrasi said.

The Bungalower article goes on to say Young got aggressive with security that kicked off a larger argument between the couple and members of staff, leading to Toledo and Young, along with their group of friends, to leave the club on their own.

The article goes on to say that “Terrasi says the security camera caught Toledo shoulder-checking the guard in the chest on the way out and becoming agitated and argumentative again rather than just leaving. Allegedly both Young and Toledo are seen striking out at security before a barback stepped in to back up the security guards. Young is seen falling down the stairs, getting up, and running back up to try to fight again, before one of the guards uses his leg to push him away.”

Terrasi tells Watermark that after the OPD’s investigation, McQueens will speak with community leaders and re-evaluate what they will do with the recording.

“We don’t wish to create unnecessary strife for the couple in question,” Terrasi said in his email to Watermark. “We are grateful for the outpouring of support from LGBTQ+ community leaders that are now rallying in support of McQueens Social Lounge as more details have been released. We also strongly believe that it is important during this time for us to take a measured approach. There are victims in our community that are affected by a plague of bigotry on what seems to be a nearly daily basis. As OPD approaches the closure of its investigation, we are looking forward to any doubt being cleared up regarding the events of that evening. We can help the community heal and get back to our long-term goal of providing rigorous support for our LGBTQ+ family.”

Terrasi also wrote that McQueens has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ community, which includes members of his own staff.

“That work spans for nearly a decade with meaningful contributions to numerous local nonprofits and foundations that provide important resources to the community,” he states. “We understand the importance of defending the marginalized and often mistreated members of this community. When the news of recent events broke we were heartbroken to read about it along with the rest of our neighbors, friends, and family.”

In a follow-up email, Terrasi says that McQueens is not planning to press charges against Toledo and Young, even going on to say they wish the best for the couple.

“We simply wish to move forward with our reputation as an establishment that continues to offer a welcoming, safe, and fun environment for all guests,” Terrasi says.

Watermark has reached out to OPD to find out the status of their investigation.

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