A gay couple was physically separated from each other Saturday night by a bouncer working at a Boca Raton, Florida bar.
Joseph Raia, a 22-year-old Florida State University graduate and Miami native, said on his Facebook that he and his boyfriend were singled out because of their sexuality.
Raia’s social media post quickly went viral after he blasted Blue Martini Boca for the treatment he said that he received at the bar.
“The bouncer was paid to remove us from the bar because the men who ordered the bottle service did not want us there anymore because we were gay.”
“For the past four years I have been openly gay and extremely fortunate to have never had a problem, felt threatened, or been discriminated against because of who I am until Saturday night, Raia wrote on the social media site. “I am proud and happy of who I am but unfortunately I experienced how hateful homophobia can be at Blue Martini Boca.”
Raia said that he was dancing with his boyfriend within a group of four other friends when he was grabbed and separated from them.
“The bouncer had pulled me off saying ‘We can’t have this here, you two can’t be here, you need to stop it and leave,'” Raia said. “I was genuinely shocked and did not understand why or where it was coming from. I kept asking why this was happening, what was his reason for attempting to kick us out.”
Raia said that he knows the reason for the physical treatment he received.
“A friend had come up to us to see what was going on and said he had witnessed a man who had ordered bottle service give the bouncer cash, thinking to himself that it was weird, but now making sense,” Raia said. “The bouncer was paid to remove us from the bar because the men who ordered the bottle service did not want us there anymore because we were gay.”
Another bouncer at the bar came over to Raia and apologized about the incident and said that the bouncer who touched Raia would be “reprimanded.”
“The manager on duty had said the same thing, that Blue Martini does not stand for this, and gave us $100 gift card to use when we return. I said I would never be coming back and we had spent much more than that, having a great night until that point but he would not let us leave without taking it,” Raia wrote on Facebook. “We left upset, hurt, and threatened since we did not know if the men would become physical towards us. I have never in my entire life felt wrong for being who I am and after the support from friends and family now realize that we were not wrong for dancing with each other.”
In an interview with Rise News, Raia said that he thinks the bouncer who got physical with him should be fired.
“As for the bouncer that tried to eject us, I would like to know that he has been removed from his position. The manager said there would be an investigation and then he would be reprimanded, but a slap on the wrist isn’t enough of a consequence for his illegal act of discrimination and bribery,” Raia told Rise News. “In our shock and being upset, we did not file a police report l, which we should have. At the time all we wanted to do was leave before someone got physically hurt.”
Raia said that he was fearful that the men who ordered the bottle service would turn physical toward he and his boyfriend.
“I am unapologetically proud of who I am and who I have become and I will not change because of pressures from someone else.”
“The men who ordered bottle service did not directly speak with us, only the bouncer,” Raia said. “They just stared at us, which was why the second bouncer suggested us to move.”
Rise News has tried to reach Blue Martini Boca for comment numerous times. A manager on call Wednesday evening said that she did not know who the on-call manager was on Saturday, and had not heard about the incident. The general manager of the bar could not be reached for comment before publication of this story.
Raia said that he would not be returning to any of the 12 Blue Martini locations.
“It is true that the actions of one man does not represent the actions of the group, but all the locations look the same. I would not feel comfortable being in the same environment that the incident occurred in,” Raia told Rise News. “As it stands now, I feel like I have to watch my back while walking down the side walk with my boyfriend. I know there is a time and place to show affection freely but I stand by my belief that we did nothing wrong.”
Raia ended his viral Facebook post with a poignant message.
“Our love is the same as anybody else’s love,” Raia said. “I am unapologetically proud of who I am and who I have become and I will not change because of pressures from someone else.”
Rise News will update this story with additional information as it becomes available.
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Cover Photo Credit: Joseph Raia/Facebook