Bar owner’s insistence he’s not homophobic after suggesting gay people spread coronavirus is so pitiful it’s almost laughable

Leo Molloy, who owns HeadQuarters in Auckland, New Zealand, weathered criticism after a homophobic COVID-19 comment which, he claimed, was taken out of context. (Facebook)

New Zealand restaurateur Leo Molloy was called homophobic after he sounded out against the government’s lockdown restrictions on bars by suggesting that gay people spread COVID-19, so bar-goers have nothing to fear.


Molloy, who owns HeadQuarters in Auckland, launched an attack last week against premier Jacinda Ardern’s level two of lockdown business openings on radio show Newstalk ZB. 

“We’re not talking about a subterranean gay bar on K Road where people swap DNA in the middle of the night and other materials,” Molloy said, referring to why his bar should remain open.

“K Road” refers to Karangahape Road. A street in the Newton neighbourhood dotted with the town’s LGBT+ bars and clubs.

Molloy told Stuff on Thursday (May 21) that his way of speaking is “staunch and robust, or even lacerating” and he emphatically denied he is homophobic.

Bar owner Leo Molloy that once hosted Pride event skewered for ‘homophobic’ COVID-19 comments. 

His comment drew immediate censure from the LGBT+ community, with some customers vowing not to return to the viaduct bar that was the venue for Rainbow Pride Auckland’s pride party in February.

The bubbling backlash, Molloy claimed, reached boiling point when anger turned into death threats.

He said he will not involve the police: “When you work in a high octane environment as we do, death threats are a dime a dozen and I don’t take them seriously,” he described.

Attempting to minimise the ensuing outrage, Molloy stressed that the interview slot was pre-recorded and the broadcaster took the sound bite out of context.

“[Newstalk ZB] made it sound like I said gay people spread Covid-19, but that’s wasn’t what I was saying at all,” he said.

“Now, I used some poorly thought out words, nine times out of ten that whistles over someone’s head, but this was taken out of context, so it sounds a bit nasty.

“Clearly, the way I speak is staunch and robust, or even lacerating, that’s my style, and I understand I can be acidic in the way I talk, but I am not homophobic.

“We have always supported the rainbow community, spiritually and in business, so I struggle with that comment — if anything, I’m homophiliac.”
He added: “I have work to do to make it up [to those offended].” The hospitality figure also told express that he will, moving forward, “almost certainly” offer a 30 per cent discount to LGBT+ bar-goers.

Molloy is known around the neighbourhood for being a lightning rod of controversy, often fielding heavy criticism for his raucous remarks.

Earlier this year, Newshub reported, he went on a bizarre rant about vegans seeded by a made-up Facebook post.