Operators of an Oak Flats business have shut up shop and gone to ground over threats levelled 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 its Facebook page and advised it 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.
“He said, ‘ladies, I’m going to have to ask you to stop that’,” Miss Dellosa told the Mercury. “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’ three times to him, with tears streaming down my face, shaking in embarrassment and anger.”
The pair wrote about the encounter on their Facebook pages, and left one-star reviews on the rink’s page. Scores of people then left negative reviews and abuse on the rink’s 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” - prompted the operators’ decision to close the venue.
Miss Dellosa 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.”
The rink is owned by former world champion speed skater Lee Fanning and her husband, Danny Fanning. Mrs Fanning was overseas when the Mercury attempted to contact her. Mr Fanning declined to comment, citing legal advice.