Gay couple claims discrimination at Seattle's Great Wheelon August 7, 2012 @ 6:06 am (Updated: 1:55 pm - 8/7/12 )
A Capitol Hill man accuses Seattle's Great Wheel of discriminating against him and his date because they are gay. (Image courtesy 97.3 KIRO FM's Erynn Rose)
When Jason Jacobs and his date were asked to leave Seattle's Great Wheel, he said the ride operator told them "we don't need your kind here."
Despite the couple's modest public displays of affection on the ride, including some hand holding, a knee touch, and a kiss on the cheek, the owners say no one on their staff knew that the couple was gay before asking them to leave.
In a post on the Great Wheel website the owners countered Jacobs' allegations as "totally false" and said the couple was asked to leave because of "bad behavior."
Jacobs originally took to Facebook with his complaint, at the suggestion of the manager, who kicked him out when he asked for contact information.
"You should know if you are gay, you run the risk of being bullied, harassed, and denied to ride The Seattle Great Wheel. Last night after paying $50 per person to ride on the VIP car, and waiting for over an hour, my date and I were asked, more like escorted, off the ride. They demanded the t-shirts you get when paying to ride in the VIP car, refunded the tickets, then walked us off the property. This happened only after my date and I held hands getting on the ride, sat down in the car and shared a little kiss..."
Jacobs has called for a boycott of the Great Wheel following what he believes is discrimination.
The owners have painted a vastly different picture. In their response, they insist the couple was asked to leave the ride because of their behavior, "which included putting their shoes on the leather seats and acting disrespectfully and unruly to our staff."
"The allegations against the Seattle Great Wheel are totally false. Our company has a long history of serving and employing members of the GBLT community and we are deeply saddened that we are being labeled as homophobic," they wrote.
It wasn't the first time Jacobs had been to the Great Wheel - he'd been twice before - and had good experiences each of those times.
The day in question had also been trying for the staff on the waterfront, Jacobs suspected. Because of a maintenance problem, a long line had formed and the couple learned that the wait would be about three hours. That's when they opted for VIP tickets at $50 a person that let them sit while they waited.
When the ride was finally going again, the staff, including the ride manager who loaded the couple into their car, seemed to be short on patience.
Jacobs doesn't deny putting his foot up briefly on the seat. He said he did it to balance himself when he leaned across the car to kiss his date on the cheek. They had just been placed in the car.
"At that point, the door reopened," Jacobs recounted on the Ross & Burbank Show. "And one of the ride operators said 'You can't put your feet on the leather seats.'"
"'OK, I'm sorry,'" Jacobs said and put his foot down. "'I think you guys are a little off today. Maybe you're under a little bit of stress. Would it be possible that after the ride is over to have a manager meet-up?'" he asked the operator.
That's when 'their kind' was asked to leave, go get a refund and leave the premises, according to Jacobs.
Co-owner Kyle Griffith has insisted that while the company is sorry Jacobs had a bad experience, the employees were merely reacting to his behavior. He has pointed to a number of supportive comments from members of the gay community among the dozens of comments posted in response.
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