EDIT: State Rep. Anna Eskamani has since shared with Bungalower that she was not aware of the incident prior to the meeting with Watermark and that she attended the meeting with the couple to learn more and was invited by Laginess.
A local couple ended a birthday outing in downtown Orlando with bruises and allegations of a hate crime on September 24th according to a report by local LGBTQ+ newspaper, Watermark, but things may not be all they seem – as revealed by recent security cam footage.
According to Watermark, Alfredo Toledo and his boyfriend, Austin Young, went downtown to celebrate Toledo’s birthday. While making a stop at McQueens Social Lounge just before midnight, the duo say they were targeted by the venue’s security staff for no reason and forced to leave the club. When they resisted, they told the paper that staff promptly threw them out, and at some point, Young was kicked down the front stairs while trying to leave. Young later filed a police report about the incident and an x-ray later revealed that he had broken his shoulder, presumably from the fall.
But according to the owner, Matt Terrasi, security camera footage and his staff have a completely different view of how things went down. Terrasi shared with Bungalower that the footage, which has been viewed by Orlando Police Department, clearly shows that Young and Toledo started not one fight, but two with security staff.
We were unable to get a copy of the video as it is part of the ongoing investigation into the incident but Terrasi gave us an account of what he and OPD saw when they watched it.
“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.”– MATT TERRASI, OWNER OF MCQUEENS SOCIAL LOUNGE
Terrasi said that’s when Young got aggressive with the security guard, which started off a larger argument when their whole group got involved, which was all captured on video. The couple accused the guard of being homophobic, prompting him to walk away so another guard could step in. After a few minutes, Young and Toledo, and their group of friends, decided to leave of their own accord.
As they left, the first guard was working the front door, so as they passed him, 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 shared that he had been told about some sort of incident that happened that night but that it hadn’t been anything too serious. Just over a week later, the Watermark article came out naming him as the offender [prior to being amended] and McQueens as homophobic and anti-gay.
In Young and Toledo’s original accounts with Watermark, they both name Terrasi as the one who kicked them and pushed them down the stairs, yet Terrasi was not even in the building that day and the two later admitted to Watermark that they pulled his name from Instagram after the event when they were trying to piece the evening back together. Watermark was forced to amend its earlier report to acknowledge the misinformation.
“We take this all really seriously. These guys were not kicked out for dancing or for being gay. We host a weekly LGBTQ+ event called Liquid Brunch and we have gay people on staff. Contrary to the news piece, security did not remove them and the OPD came out this week and confirmed the couple were the aggressors, not our staff. They even said they were impressed with how patient our staff was and that the bar is in the right if we’d like to press charges.”– MATT TERRASI
Terrasi shared that he’s reticent to share the video publicly in case it does more harm to the community than good, saying, “These guys were using the hate crime platform for personal gain and what they’re doing is nasty and they’re trying to tear our company apart. The hate crime platform is there to protect LGBTQ people and it’s going to make people think twice the next time they hear about something like this. We know that there’s a bigger picture here, and we just want people to know that we didn’t do anything wrong. We’re getting threats, people are saying things about my son. I don’t want the good things we’re doing to be affected by the lies of two drunk guys. Watermark didn’t do any fact-checking and this is a really serious accusation to put on someone.”
Jeremy Williams, the editor of Watermark, shared that he was tipped off about the story by a collection of local notables,
including State Rep. Anna Eskamani, and Suebee Laginess, the latter of which is the employer of Austin Young, who rallied to support the couple when they shared their story about how he broke his shoulder. Williams says he based his story on the police report and the account of the couple who said it was a clear hate crime, and that he did try to speak with Terrasi multiple times before publishing.
A GoFundMe, organized by Laginess, raised roughly $2,190 before it was canceled earlier this week when news of the security footage surfaced.