Google mistakenly labels local Ethiopian restaurant permanently closed

Owner of Harman's Cafe looking for answers after search results confused regulars, possibly cost her business.

Owner of Harman's Cafe looking for answers after search results confused regulars, possibly cost her business

Desta Negatu says Google erroneously listed her restaurant, Harman's Cafe, as 'permanently closed.' (CBC)

A Winnipeg restaurant owner is searching for answers after Google search results said her Ethiopian restaurant was "permanently closed" for at least two weeks while it was very much open.

"When I checked, it says permanently closed." said Desta Negatu, proprietor of Harman's Café. "I was shocked."

A customer called Negatu after noticing it had been listed as closed for weeks. 

She's not sure where Google got the wrong information from, and called the tech giant every day from Christmas Eve until Jan. 6.

Multiple customers called to inquire whether Harman's was closed for good.

Negatu wonders how many customers saw the listing and didn't call to check. 

She said business was noticeably slower this holiday season but also thinks the cold could have contributed.

Beata Wajsowicz has been a customer of Harman's Café for over five years. She helped Negatu deal with Google and sent emails on her behalf.

"The question we have though is how did it change to permanently closed? ... And what's the process there? Because if any person can go online and report a business is closed, and Google does not verify that and it's incorrect, then obviously that can impact that business," said Wajsowicz.

She also worries her heavy accent was a factor in not getting a call back.

"I think maybe they just listening your accent and they just hang up," said Negatu.

Negatu said Wajsowicz helped send an email to Google with the business's proper hours and the issue has been resolved.

In a statement, Google said it's "heavily invested in empowering users to contribute their local knowledge to Google," using a tool that allows people to suggest edits to business listings. 

"Overall, allowing users to suggest and moderate edits provides comprehensive and up-to-date info, but we recognize there may be occasional inaccuracies or bad edits suggested by users. When this happens, we do our best to address the issue as quickly as possible," the statement from Google Canada said. 

Restaurant supports kids back home

Negatu supports 50 orphans back in her home country of Ethiopia with profits from the restaurant. A typical month allows her to donate at least $1,000 to the organization she founded, called Bete Destha. Negatu said she was worried she wouldn't be able to make that contribution this month.

"This has a double impact on her, because it not only impacts the profit of her business but it limits the amount of money she can send to support these kids in Ethiopia," said Wajsowicz.

Negatu started the organization Bete Destha over a decade ago. Every time she travelled back to Korem, Ethiopia, where she is originally from, she would notice kids without food. So she began to support them the only way she knew how — through her cooking.

​'I don't have that much to put in my bank or savings. My savings is them.'-  Negatu

"If I am only feeding myself I don't care, I will close and I will go and find another job. [...] I am just working hard not only for me but I have 50 kids to feed," said Negatu.

Her organization has grown to build an after-school drop-in centre where kids can eat and play. And recently a donor helped build washroom facilities at the centre.

​"I don't have that much to put in my bank or savings. My savings is them."