Saskatoon

Saskatoon pub owner apologizes after crime complaint erupts online

Chris Beavis co-owns the Hotel Senator in Saskatoon and its bar, Winston's English Pub. He has apologized after posting inflammatory comments on the business' official Facebook page. However, he says he's not sorry for bringing up the issue of people feeling unsafe around his downtown hotel and bar.

Says online complaint was directed at people committing crimes, not the mentally ill or homeless

The owner of Winston's Pub in Saskatoon received hundreds of comments in backlash and in support after posting on Facebook about safety in the area, making reference to people who hang out around the nearby emergency shelter, The Lighthouse. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

A Saskatoon pub owner has apologized, after posting inflammatory comments on the business' official Facebook page. 

Chris Beavis co-owns the Hotel Senator in Saskatoon, and manages its connected bar, Winston's English Pub. He confirmed to CBC News that he wrote the posts from the business's account complaining about crime in the area and people connected to a nearby shelter. 

His words triggered a heated debate on the page. Hundreds of people commented on both sides of the issue. 

Pub's post sparks controversy

This is the initial post Beavis made on Winston's English Pub's Facebook page. (Facebook)

It started with a message posted Friday night, in which Beavis named a nearby emergency shelter, The Lighthouse Supported Living facility, and asked whether it has 'done damage to a growing and flourishing downtown by bringing (an) element of criminal activity'.

Beavis continued the post, writing that he is not against the Lighthouse and people who need help, but that the 'other ppl [sic] it brings to downtown are the problem'. 

Beavis later apologized about the way he wrote his post and some related responses, however he says he is not sorry for talking about downtown criminal activity hindering his business. 

"To be honest, I have seen the lot of the people that are hanging around go directly in that direction towards The Lighthouse," Beavis told CBC News. "That is why I started that conversation off. I just wanted to get some feedback from some people on what their experiences were."

Commenters take issue with description of people as 'parasites'

People have posted comments responding to Beavis's remarks on Winston's English Pub's Facebook page. (Facebook)

Within hours, the post's follow-up comments numbered in the hundreds. 

Many respondents took issue after one reader asked what the post meant when it referred to 'other people' the Lighthouse allegedly brings to the area.

Writing as Winston's Pub, Beavis responded, "Other ppl [sic] are parasites and pieces of crap who come down to hang around the lighthouse. Quit being a self righteous and maybe go out at night and see it for yourself."

Saturday morning, Beavis posted again to clarify that he is not frustrated with homeless people or clients at The Lighthouse. He said he's frustrated with people committing crimes in the downtown area near his pub, hassling his customers and making them feel unsafe. Later that day, Beavis posted again to issue an apology and official statement. 

Beavis apologizes, says he's not sorry for sparking conversation about safety

Beavis was apologetic after some said he was being ignorant about issues connected to homeless people. In his official statement, he wrote that he and the pub have nothing against homeless or mentally ill people, rather they're worried about criminal activity and an overall perception of downtown as an unsafe place.

Beavis told CBC News that the past four to six months had been tough for his downtown business, with drug dealers and other unsavoury characters chronically hanging around the bar.

Beavis maintains there is an issue of safety near the Lighthouse. His posts also suggested the emergency shelter needed to improve its management strategies. When asked by CBC News to clarify these remarks, Beavis said he plans to connect with The Lighthouse's staff to work together to find solutions.

"I'd like to be an advocate for them as well, work together on how to deal with certain situations," Beavis said. "I don't know if their patrons are kept in check there like other places that are in the same kind of care."

A spokesperson for The Lighthouse was unavailable for comment Saturday afternoon. 

I did respond to some people quite harshly but I did feel like I was being persecuted a bit,- Chris Beavis

Candice Weingartner was walking near the bar Saturday afternoon. She says she has lived in Saskatoon for 8 years.

"I walk by myself downtown all the time and, no, I have never really had any major concerns. One or two scary incidents, but I think that is on par for any major city that you are in," said Wiengartner. 

Despite feeling relatively safe, Weingartner said she does change her path when she walks in that area. 

"I do avoid walking directly right in front of The Lighthouse. But that being said, as long as you're on the side where the Galaxy is, I have no problems walking along there. I just avoid that corner in particular."

Beavis said he's sorry about how his words were taken by the page's readers, and about how he responded to some of their comments, but he's not sure whether he was wrong to write the posts. He says after re-reading the messages, he doesn't think anything he said was out of line. 

"I was opening up and asking a question in the first post," he said. "I did respond to some people quite harshly but I did feel like I was being persecuted a bit and they took what I said wrong. I never even mentioned homeless people."

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