Anti-gay slurs push restaurateurs from Manitoba town
The openly gay owners of a restaurant in Morris, Man., are closing up and leaving, saying they are tired of homophobic remarks.
"We are hurt and upset by it. We had thought that life in Morris would be good," said Dave Claringbould, a chef and one of the owners of Pots N Hands.
He and his partner opened the restaurant just four months ago in the town, south of Winnipeg.
"We left the city for a quieter life, which is why we bought a property out here," Claringbould said.
Morris Mayor Gavin van der Linde says most people in town support the couple, but a handful who couldn't keep their opinions to themselves are making things difficult.
Since the decision to close up has gone public, the restaurant has had many townspeople stopping in to make it clear the majority of residents do not share the anti-gay sentiment.
However, Van der Linde doesn't believe the homophobic remarks are only to blame for the restaurant closing. If the business had been more financially successful, he believes the couple would have persevered.
"I think like any other restaurant it takes a long time to get going. I think if they were a little patient I think they'd find a lot more support," he said.
"It would be great if they'd reconsider. I think they have a future in Morris."
Claringbould insists the primary reason for closing is the homophobic comments.
"The issue has been comments made to my partner and I. We’ve lost a lot of business with people coming into the restaurant," he said.
"One such comment was for instance, we were asked if someone was going to catch something off the plate they were served."
Jeremy Wiebe and his mother visit the restaurant often. He said he grew up in a small town and is familiar with the types of comments the couple received.
"I was working at a restaurant as well, and I know I had served someone, and they made a big thing about it," said Wiebe.
"I could tell they weren’t happy I had served them their food."
Other residents in the town wish the restaurant would stay open.
"I think it’s sad. I wish they’d stay," said Morris resident Curtis Lee.
Van der Linde said the community has offered resources to the business to help improve their sales and try to keep them open.
"We have some really great business supports. The president of our chamber of commerce has been to speak to them. The economic development officer has been to them," said Van der Linde.
Claringbould said it’s not enough for him and his partner to stay, but he doesn’t harbour any hard feelings toward the town.
"There’s many great people here. We’ve been supported by a lot of local people and local businesses that don’t deserve any negative impact from this," he said.
The restaurant is slated to close on April 13.