Chad Hemp and Alberto Lesmes allege manager at entertainment center told them they weren’t a family, asked them to leave


Chad Hemp, left, and Alberto Lesmes

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

PLANO — A gay couple who went out for date night to Main Event are claiming discrimination after the manager told them they were not family and asked them to leave.

Alberto Lesmes said he and his partner Chad Hemp went to the fun center at 3941 Central Expressway Sunday, Jan. 6, for a night of bowling. When their bowling lane continued to have technical difficulties, they requested a new lane.

Once the couple began to bowl in the new lane, a child from a large group next to them kept bowling in their lane. Lesmes said his partner went up to ask if they could be moved again. When Lesmes saw his partner get upset, he went over to speak to the manager on duty.

The manager was already irritated, Lesmes said, and said they were causing a problem by asking to be moved again. The manager asked if they were professional bowlers. When the couple replied they were not, the manager said the venue was a family environment. Lesmes said he told the manager he was with his family. When the manager asked where they were, Lesmes pointed to his partner and said they were family and wanted to enjoy their evening.

But Lesmes said the manager refused to move them to another lane and told them that they “were not family.”

“He said, ‘My resolution is to refund your game and let you leave,’” Lesmes said, so they left. “He didn’t want to resolve it with us. … Instead of acknowledging that two men are here together, they just asked us to leave.”

Lesmes called to speak to the manager Tuesday but was treated rudely. He said an employee questioned whether the incident even happened and referred him to corporate.

Main Event staff did contact him later in the week to speak about the incident, but he was unable to talk because he was dealing with a family matter. He said he hopes to speak to them soon.

Main Event Entertainment is a Dallas-based company with so-called family entertainment centers featuring recreational bowling, billiards, laser tag and a unique selection of interactive games throughout Texas, according to its website.

After a preliminary investigation into the couple’s claim, the company says there was “no effort to discriminate.”

Amy Johnson, director of Main Event’s marketing, emailed a statement to Dallas Voice Wednesday afternoon, explaining that the company was investigating the incident by talking to staff and reviewing video footage from Sunday.

“We employ and cater to guests from all walks of life, including the LGBT community,” the statement reads in part. “We are very protective of any family’s experience at Main Event and take every complaint and the resolution of such — very seriously. Our preliminary investigation reveals that there was no effort to discriminate. We want to ensure all of our guests get to enjoy the full experience of ‘Eat, Bowl, Play.’”

Johnson also sent Dallas Voice a copy of the company’s nondiscrimination policy that includes “sexual preference.”

Lesmes said he and his partner hadn’t been to Main Event before Sunday and would never return after the treatment. He said he wants an apology for the way they were treated.

“Our goal is to hopefully bring awareness to all communities that there should be zero tolerance for any kind of prejudice based on same-sex relationships, multi-racial or otherwise,” he said.  “To be told we are ‘not family’ is inexcusable. All we are seeking is an apology for the abrupt and rude communication from management and other parties involved.”

But his partner wants something more concrete from the company.

“I don’t want him to apologize. I want something more done,” Hemp said. “Maybe I’m reaching for something, but I am not second class. I am the same as everyone else and as for him to apologize that is not OK with me.”

The couple’s allegations were first reported by Dallas Voice on Monday. By Thursday the story had made national news when it was picked up by The Huffington Post.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 11, 2013.