Last week a Broward County jury delivered a damage award to a bar patron who claimed he was accosted by a bouncer in a nightclub. The verdict was reported in the county’s legal newspaper, the Daily Business Review.
The piece of this story that caught our eye was that the victim was a gay man who was apparently struck by a gay bartender in a local gay club, now defunct, the Wilton Manors bar once known as The Stable. He sued the parent corporation, Scandals Bar & Lounge, and was awarded $39,787.
It was not a major story. We tend not to cover bar fights. If we covered all the bar fights from Key West to North Palm Beach, we would become the South Florida Gay Legal News.
But this story was different. This was not an unsubstantiated accusation. This was not someone calling us up screaming on Monday that a bouncer beat him on Sunday. This is a case where a gay man was hurt, his lawyer sued, the case went to trial, and a judgment was awarded.
But when we called the owner of Scandals, Ken Kelley, for a comment, he launched two accusatory tirades at SFGN, as if we were doing something wrong, stating, “SFGN must be desperate for news.” Nonsense. All we were trying to do was report some simple facts about what happened.
But Kelley would have none of it. He wrote to us that he determined the incident was a non-issue…end of story.” We respectfully disagree. While the incident happened four years ago, the jury verdict was last week. So it is timely and newsworthy, whether you like it or not. It certainly was for the Daily Review – and they have been around for about one hundred years longer than us.
This was a real case where a bouncer was accused of attacking a gay male patron in a gay nightclub in our hometown. Broward Sheriff’s deputies may have cleared him of criminal wrongdoing, as Mr. Kelley pointed out to us, but that does not mean he wasn’t civilly negligent, or that the bar was not legally responsible for his actions. Ask O.J. Simpson.
Finally, we asked Mr. Kelley if he still employs the bouncer in his present bar. We thought you had a right to know if the person is still working at a popular bar you may patronize.
Here was Mr. Kelley’s unseemly and crude reply to our reporter: “The only comment I have to say to you, Norm Kent, and SFGN is that your insistence to publish a story that has absolutely no relevance and is in no way shape or form newsworthy is tabloid journalism at its worst. I will not dignify this effort to cause me and my business harm with any additional communication with you or any other person at SFGN regarding this.”
Mr. Kelley, my duty as the publisher of SFGN is to the community’s interests, not yours. Reporting the facts and the truth faithfully is what we do, even if it exposes warts and wounds in our own bedroom. Telling unpleasant stories or unpopular news does not mean we have it ‘in’ for any bar, seek to target any owner, or want to cause their establishment harm.
In this particular case, Jeffrey Dinsmore, 39, said a bouncer pushed him so hard that he was knocked down, and it caused him to hit his head on the floor, suffering a concussion. As reported in our story, Dinsmore claimed he later missed three months of work with post-concussion syndrome. He sued Scandal’s for failure to properly interview, train, supervise, and manage its employees.
The Stable could have defended the lawsuit. They chose not to. We asked why; that’s called journalism.
You had nothing to hide. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes, bad things happen. They may or may not be your fault. Regardless, we are this community’s newspaper, not your personal fluffer.
Two separate newspapers reported the results. It makes us neither a terrible paper or tabloid journalists. It keeps you honest and us real. It wasn’t a major story until you made it one.
Publishing those facts in the South Florida Gay News or the Daily Business Review is simply fulfilling our obligation to report the news. That’s America; that’s a free press. That’s who we are, and what we do.