Operators of an Oak Flats business have shut up shop and gone to ground over threats leveled in the aftermath of an allegedly homophobic incident.
The Oak Flats Roller Skating Rink was inundated with online abuse and phone calls after a same-sex couple reported they were asked to leave the Industrial Road venue for “pecking” one another in view of an offended parent on Friday night.
By Monday the venue had shut down its Facebook page and parts of its website, advising the business had “closed permanently due to concerns for the safety of our staff”.
The couple, Maddie Dellosa and Amy Hudson, both 20, of Kiama, were attending the rink on a date.
Ms Dellosa says the couple’s physical contact was limited to “a few pecks – nothing over half a second” and “hands that didn’t go anywhere other than each others’ hand or face or back” before they were were approached by a manager shortly before 9pm Friday.
“I was going to the toilet and [Amy] was going to the car. We pecked on the lips and I turned around and saw the manager coming towards me. He said, ‘ladies, I’m going to have to ask you to stop that’,” Miss Dellosa told the Mercury.
“I felt my blood boil.
“He said he’d had a complaint from a parent that it wasn’t appropriate in front of children.
“He said, ‘I don’t care if boys kiss boys or whatever, it’s just not tolerated here, it’s a family venue’.
“That was when Amy grabbed my face and kissed me on the lips.
“He said, ‘right, now I’m going to have to ask you to leave’.”
Miss Dellosa and Miss Hudson have also been abused over the encounter.
Online detractors have suggested they were verbally aggressive towards the manager and one claims they were “all over each other” at the family-friendly event.
Miss Dellosa admits the pair became upset and angry once confronted. She said they threw their hire skates in the bin and she swore at the manager repeatedly before departing.
“We moved towards the exit to cause less of a scene,” she said.
“I said ‘F-you’ to three times to him, with tears streaming down my face, shaking in embarrassment and anger. The sense of inequality really hit me.”
But she denies their earlier behaviour was unsuited to a family environment.
“It’s a family venue – I see that, and I see that it’s not appropriate for teenagers or anyone of any gender to be all over each other. If I was doing that, I would agree it was fair of him to ask me to leave, but this was not what this was,” she said.
“We were giving a quick peck before we went to do whatever we were going to do, and no one can tell me that he would ask a straight couple to [stop] that if a parent complained.”
The pair briefly returned to the rink to claim a refund.
Later that night, they wrote about the encounter on their Facebook pages, and left one-star reviews on the rink’s Facebook page.
By Sunday, their stories had been widely circulated online.
Scores of people left one-star reviews and abuse on the rink’s Facebook page, which was quickly taken down.
The Mercury understands threatening messages left on the rink’s answering service – “you’ll get yours, it’s coming” - promted the operators’ decision to close the venue.
Miss Dellosa says she condemns those who made the threats.
“I don’t think that’s right. I’m really angry and whoever did that. It’s not how I wanted the situation handled. I never suggested anyone do that, I simply opened up and told people of my experience.”
The rink is owned by one-time world champion speed skater Lee Fanning and her husband, Danny Fanning. Mrs Fanning was overseas when the Mercury attempted to contact her on Monday.
Mr Fanning declined to comment, citing legal advice.