2nd restaurateur chased from Manitoba town
Previous owners of Thea Morris's diner left town due to anti-gay remarks
Another restaurateur is leaving the Manitoba town of Morris, claiming she has been targeted by customers and others, including one who sent her a racist message.
Thea Morris says business at her Jamaican eatery, Thea's Diner, is drying up because some customers are trying to intimidate her.
"A lot of stuff has been happening that's killing my business, and I'm also a little bit scared for my safety," she told CBC News.
A lot of stuff has been happening that's killing my business, and I'm also a little bit scared for my safety- Thea Morris
Morris, who was born in Jamaica but now lives in Winnipeg and commutes to the restaurant, said she was told by one of her customers that people are avoiding her business because she is black.
She also said there are groups of customers that come and act disrespectful and condescending towards her and her staff.
"The waitress or the waiter will come back to get the coffee or the drink or the tea and pour it all to [bring] it to them, only for them to get up and walk out," she said.
"They give no reason. They just get up, grab their coat and leave."
Morris said she even received a racist messages online, including some that make a reference to the Ku Klux Klan.
She said she posted an ad online for jobs in her restaurant, "and they responded they're recruiting for the KKK and if I want to join."
Another message she recieved, which Morris later shared on the diner's Facebook page, read: "You guys still chasing colours out of your towns out there? I believe the KKK has a chapter in south Dakota you should join!"
She said she reported the incidents to police and that's when diners began showing up and leaving after being served drinks.
Morris said she is planning to close the diner at the end of December after just six months in business.
Previous problems for restaurant owners
The previous owners of a restaurant at that same location made national headlines in the spring when they left Morris, saying they were tired of hearing homophobic slurs.
The owners, an openly gay couple, had operated Pots N Hands for just four months before they decided to close.
Thea Morris bought the restaurant in June, just weeks after Pots N Hands shut down.
On Oct. 15, Morris posted a status on her Facebook page that said: "I am starting to feeling the same vibes as the pre-owner just before … yikes!!!"
Morris Mayor hopes she'll reconsider
Morris Mayor Gavin Van Der Linde said there is a lot of support for Morris and her restaurant and hopes she'll reconsider closing up.
"My first response is nobody should have to deal with what Thea has been going through. Someone who feels unsafe or threatened, I mean that's unacceptable anywhere in our day and age," he said.
"I would just, you know, encourage Thea and encourage others not to let the minority of people dictate where they go. I know this restaurant was one of her dreams and we shouldn't allow people to destroy those dreams."
Residents question reason unpopularity of Thea's Diner
Thea's Diner is not the only ethnically diverse restaurant in the town. Just two doors down is Kam Loon Restaurant, which has been in business for over 22 years in Morris.
Lily Lau operates the restaurant and also lives in the town. She says the restaurant is doing well.
"Nice customers, nice town. I like it," she said.
Morris resident Shauna McMillan said the unpopularity of Thea's Diner could be because the service is very slow and prices are high.
“Quite honestly, I don’t think it has anything to do with the bigotry Morris is being labeled with. I think it's unfair,” she said.
Morris resident David Ted agreed with McMillan's assessment.
"Well it's wintertime and everything else,” he said. “Everybody does their thing. There's a lot of restaurants that close in Winnipeg too.”
Morris conceded her decision does in part have to do with money.
"Now, it boils down to me spending $30 a day just to come to Morris and going home with nothing," said Morris.