The owner of a new gay business on Oxford Street was last week threatened with violence by a group of men if he didn’t leave the area.
Greg Franks, owner of Rainbow Video near Taylor Square on Oxford Street, was approached by three men outside his first-floor business at lunch time on Saturday.
The men, described as well-dressed and aged in their 20s, surrounded Franks near his front door.
They started saying, -˜We don’t want you here, we’re not going to tolerate you being here. We’re going to get you fucked over, we know people who can do it,’ Franks told Sydney Star Observer.
One of them was waving his fist in my face while he was saying this.
Franks said the men didn’t physically harm him or make any personal insults before they left.
It was more about the business, he explained.
Franks opened the video shop two weeks ago and said he stocked gay-themed movies rated PG to R, not pornography.
On Tuesday this week the Rainbow Video sign on Oxford Street was stolen.
Franks said police told him they believed the thieves were the same men who had threatened him.
He also said police believed they had a fairly good idea who the men were. Police advised him to take out an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) on the men, he said.
Surry Hills Police confirmed they had spoken to Franks but would not comment further.
Franks said the incidents would not scare him away.
It wouldn’t stop me from having a business in the area, he said.
It’s not going to frighten me away, but I don’t feel as secure here as I previously did. I am getting a surveillance system put in today.
I thought I was choosing a good central location for this business and that it wasn’t likely to bother anybody.
Carl Harris, coordinator of the Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project, said he had not heard of any similar incidents occurring in the area before.
Outgoing chair of the Darlinghurst Business Partnership, Phil Wharton, believed the incident was isolated.
I think it’s a specific issue, he said.
If [other] people were being threatened on the street I’m sure I’d hear about it, I’m in touch with lots of tenants. It’s not a widespread thing.
Wharton said threats like the ones described by Franks were unfortunately part and parcel of business and that it could happen anywhere.
Business is a tough gig. You get all sorts of conflicting interests.
I’d say to him, if they were serious you’d be dead or bashed. So obviously they’re not too serious.
The harassment comes at a time when Oxford Street is lined with empty shops and vacant signs as businesses choose not to stay in the area.
The number of vacant shops has been blamed on everything including crime in the area, disruption caused by the recent roadwork, the opening of nearby Westfield Bondi Junction and the migration of gays and lesbians to the inner west.