P.E.I. restaurant says reaction to chalkboard joke taken out of context

A P.E.I. restaurant is saying reaction to a chalkboard sign out front is being taken out of context as some people express concern over a statement posted during the Island's Pride festival.

'As a gay couple, we thought it was not offensive at all'

The sign was set up outside Terre Rouge in Charlottetown during the P.E.I. Pride festival. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

A Charlottetown restaurant has changed the message on a small sidewalk sign in front of the building after receiving some negative feedback on what staff had written in chalk.

Terre Rouge had written a joke on the sign during P.E.I.'s Pride festival that had been told by one of their staff, who is originally from Newfoundland and identifies as transgender.

It references how to identify someone who may be gay and from Newfoundland using a line from the traditional song "I'se The B'y"

They say they also had a Pride rainbow flag attached to the sign.

"We thought we would try and celebrate Pride by telling a gay joke to try and feel inclusive and make people feel comfortable with it," said Cody McKenna, who is the bar, social media and marketing manager for the restaurant.

"We all thought it was funny, my partner and myself included."

McKenna said they received a lot of positive reviews for the joke on the sign with support from those in the LGBTQ community.

The sign was changed after people commented that 'Newfie' was considered a derogatory label to some people in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Submitted)

Mixed reactions

But there were some negative reactions as well, both online and in person. Originally the sign used the term "Newfie", which is considered by some to be a derogatory label in Newfoundland and Labrador.

McKenna said that based on that feedback, they changed the sign to just read Newfoundlander.

He also mentions in an online post that he had lived in Newfoundland and attended Memorial University of Newfoundland. He said in the post that he adores the people of the province and thinks of them as the kindest people in Canada.

"Then people started to comment about how we had a gay joke out front and it was offensive," McKenna said.

"As a gay couple, we thought it was not offensive at all. We thought we could use the word freely and what not."

Sign damaged

McKenna said there was even an incident where a man went out of his way to damage the sign after seeing it outside.

"He grabbed our sign and threw it into the road. There was a Pride flag attached to it and he ripped it out," McKenna said.

"Then he flipped-off one of the servers that was out there ... and told her to, 'go eff herself,'" he said.

Changed sign brings more reaction

After a week of the sign being out front, one of the staff decided to update the sign.

To address the controversy, she changed the sign to read, "If everyone could stop being offended by everything that would be great."

The second sign was posted outside Terre Rouge by a staff member after dealing with reaction from the first sign. (Submitted)

McKenna said that sign was up for a few days as well. He said they stand behind their staff and how they handled the negative comments coming in.

"It was basically telling people to maybe don't be offended if you don't know the context of something or we would have appreciated contacting us and we could have filled you in about the joke or what not," McKenna said.

He said in the online post that he apologizes to the people who were offended by the second sign.

General manager Alex Smith said the sign incidents have been blown out of proportion.

"When it is all said and done in the grand scheme of things, like with world problems and where we are at, it's just, to come down to something like this it is really absurd," Smith said.

"I understand how people could see it from their viewpoint but that is just people jumping to assumptions."

Smith says the reaction seems to get lots of attention when it is negative and taken out of context.

"As we have stated before, as a gay couple and the transgender cook being a Newfoundlander, like us coming together as a collective during Pride week specifically to put a sign out like that, it's not meant in an offensive way."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Travis Kingdon