Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gay owners to close restaurant, sick of insults

Verbal attacks drive restaurateurs from Morris

  • Print

A new rural Manitoba restaurant is suddenly closing its doors following a series of homophobic verbal attacks against the two gay owners.

Pots N Hands just opened for business last December in Morris, located about 60 kilometres south of Winnipeg. Customers learned last week the eatery will now serve its final made-from-scratch meal in mid-April.

Morris Mayor Gavin van der Linde told the Free Press he was stunned to learn a handful of local citizens had essentially run the business out of town.

"It's very sad this has happened, that people have been small-minded enough to make them feel unwelcome," van der Linde said Monday. "It certainly doesn't reflect well on the community."

The two owners are from Winnipeg and felt they were filling a void with their restaurant, which specializes in home-cooked lunch and dinners. But they weren't prepared for the bigotry they experienced in the form of direct comments and confrontations about their sexual orientation.

"It's been very difficult for us. It got to the point of being out of control by this certain group of people," one of the owners told the Free Press on Monday. They originally declined to speak last week, saying only that they were closing for "personal" reasons. But they later changed their minds on Monday after learning many others were expressing concern on their behalf. They asked that their names not be published for fear of ongoing retribution.

"This has been a very difficult decision," said the co-owner. "I cannot tell you how this has affected us on so many levels."

Van der Linde said he first learned of the incidents about two weeks ago and spoke to the two owners, who confirmed what had been occurring.

"I was surprised, I hadn't heard anything about any comments before that. Everyone I heard from loved the food. It was an extremely positive response," said van der Linde. The issue was raised at a town council meeting last month and everyone responded by going to the restaurant for lunch.

"We wanted to show our support," he said. "Unfortunately, you just need a few people to say something out of order and it can be taken as the feeling of the community as a whole. These derogatory comments are very unfortunate. We don't need those type of comments around."

The owners declined to provide specific examples of what's been said to them, saying they wish to exit the community with the "same grace" with which they set up shop late last year.

"Both of us understand this small group of individuals don't represent the community of Morris and surrounding communities as a whole," said one. Although it wasn't a secret that the restaurant was owned by two gay men, he said they've done nothing to "flaunt" their sexual orientation.

"But by no means are we ashamed of who we are and how we live," he said,

Several Morris-area residents have reached out to the owners to express their remorse and outrage over what has happened. There have also been dozens of encouraging and supportive messages posted on their Facebook page.

"Pretty low-class some citizens of Morris. The epitome of bigotry," wrote one supporter who works in the medical profession and has frequented the restaurant since it opened.

"Grow up, people. It's called living the life the way you want to," wrote another.

The Free Press spoke with one local citizen who has been identified by several sources as a vocal critic of the pair. Although he admitted their sexual orientation "isn't my choice" he denied saying anything homophobic to the two owners.

Horst Backe is a spokesman for Reaching Out Winnipeg, a program whose volunteers help people facing persecution and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He said the timing of this "shocking" incident is interesting given the Manitoba government's controversial new anti-bullying bill.

"These are adults here who are being bullied. It really underscores the need to protect children," said Backe.

Bill 18 has been a hot-button issue in the province for more than a month with some critics, including Manitoba senior federal cabinet minister Vic Toews, saying it infringes on religious freedom because it requires religious schools to accommodate student-led gay-straight alliance activities.

Education Minister Nancy Allan said Bill 18 does include all forms of bullying by its very definition of bullying. The bill says bullying is a behaviour that's intended to cause, or should be known to cause, fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other forms of harm to another person's body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property.

Backe said this type of discrimination isn't just the product of a small-town environment.

"You don't have to be accepting. You just have to be tolerant," he said. "I think you will find tolerance and acceptance, and intolerant and hateful people everywhere."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 2, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 10:09 AM CDT: adds related story as sidebar

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Bombers This Week: Huge game against Lions

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Canada goose flies towards the sun near the Perimeter Highway North and Main St Monday afternoon – See Day 10 for Bryksa’s 30 goose project - May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What should the legal drinking age be?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google