Gay couple shut bakery after taunts and attacks

A gay Christchurch couple say homophobic slurs and repeated attacks have forced them to close their bakery.

Dave Zelton and his partner, who have been together for five years, said the abuse had put a strain on their health, their relationship and their business.

The couple set up their bakery and food delivery service in the city centre last June.

They moved to their Hoon Hay store after the September 4 earthquake restricted access to the inner-city site.

Zelton said a family and the family's friends had targeted the couple after they opened their Hoon Hay shop, taunting them from outside the store.

"They've yelled at customers outside our shop, saying `Don't go in there', calling us faggots."

Store windows had also been broken, while the couple's home and car had been damaged.

Zelton had arranged for the family to be served with trespass notices, and had spoken to police and a lawyer. However, the couple moved out of the shop last week, and did not want to return.

"We've had too many broken windows, and it's costing us money," Zelton said. "We just have to let it go. We've got no choice."

The couple said the problems had strained their relationship and their health, and made it impossible for them to stay in the area.

"We thought we could be who we are, not need to hide in the wardrobe or anything. We don't need to be treated like s...."

Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Business Association executive member Suzy Lawson said she was "astounded" by the allegations of abuse. "I don't understand how, in the society we live in today, with the laws we have, how people can still feel uncomfortable."

Lawson was not aware of any other gay Christchurch business owners who had experienced such problems.

Senior Sergeant Rob Patterson, of Christchurch South, said police were aware of issues at the bakery.

Patterson said a teenager had been arrested several weeks ago for breaking a window, while a community constable had been mediating a dispute between the couple and residents.

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The Press