Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wrong to blame town: mayor

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MORRIS town fathers are used to dealing with floods -- just not those like national backlash ignited when two gay men announced the closure of their restaurant due to receiving anti-gay comments.

After all, this is the time, in early April, when Morris residents are keeping a wary eye on the Red River. But now mayor Gavin van der Linde and council are up to their eyeballs in complaints that his town is full of small-minded homophobes.

"We have received more emails (complaints) on this as a town than any issue. Ever," van der Linde said on Wednesday. "It's going viral in a negative direction, which I don't think is an accurate reflection of what's happening in town. On our side, it's sad to be painted with the same brush because of one or two individuals. You can't blame a city and can't blame a town for something like that."

The Morris council felt compelled on Wednesday to issue a press release in an attempt to stem the rising tide of negative response to news that Dave Claringbould and his partner were closing their restaurant Pots N Hands after hearing one too many complaints from customers about their sexual orientation, which they described as "narrow-minded" and "absolutely shocking."

They plan to serve their last meal on April 13 after opening their doors in Morris four months ago.

Both van der Linde and the town's chamber of commerce president have urged the owners to keep the restaurant open, but to no avail, the mayor said. "We'd be very happy if they changed their minds. But as much as people have encouraged them, that decision (to close) has been made."

The release, signed by council, concluded: "The Town of Morris is saddened to be losing a business run by two very polite individuals, and especially under these circumstances. We appreciate the concern that has been voiced, but please remember that painting an entire town with the same intolerant brush is akin to the ignorance that made this front-page news to begin with."

The owners stressed that the derogatory comments, largely coming from "a certain group of people," were "to the point of being out of control."

An email has been circulating to plan a "mass road trip" to Morris on Saturday to show support for the restaurant owners, which is scheduled to leave the Round Table parking lot on Pembina Highway at 12:30 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2013 A3

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