Dave Claringbould's dream of owning a restaurant is over, just 4 months after he opened his first eatery with his partner. This week, he announced that the homophobia the two experienced serving the small community Morris in Manitoba, Canada was too much and that they would be shutting down the popular restaurant. Their tenure was as brief as it was troubled by town residents that never quite understood their own homophobia's negative effect on their views of the restaurant and its owners.
Claringbould opened "Pots N Hands" in December 2012, and patrons flocked to the new establishment for home-cooked meals in a safe environment. But only months later, news spread that the owners were a gay couple. Regulars canceled reservations, those who dared eat at the restaurant shot homophobic slurs at the couple, and the ignorance of the small town 70 kilometers south of Winnipeg shone through.
"We were asked if somebody was going to catch something off of the plate because we had prepared the food on it," said Claringbould. "We were very hurt and upset by it. Some of the narrow-minded things that have been said to us are absolutely shocking."
Apparently, Claringbould's 15 years of kitchen experience and teaching around the world couldn't prevent homophobic slurs — no matter how good the food was, even among patrons who had visited and enjoyed the restaurant in the past, people stopped coming.
"A lot of people don't like it," said George Ifantis, a fellow Morris restaurateur. "You don't know what they're doing in the kitchen."
"They should get the hell out of here," another resident said. "I don't really like them, the service and who they are."
But not everyone in Morris will bid "good riddance" to the couple when the restaurant closes on April 13. Mayor Gavin van der Linde stressed that the majority of the community is welcoming and tolerant, and that people should not judge it based on the comments of a few bad people.
"It's sad that there is still so much ignorance," said van der Linde. "It's going viral in a negative direction, which I don't think is an accurate reflection of what's happening in town. On our side, it's sad to be painted with the same brush because of one or two individuals. You can't blame a city and can't blame a town for something like that."
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger also announced on Thursday that he would be visiting the restaurant before it closes to show support for the owners and for the mayor's stand against homophobic bullying. He assured people that the province of Manitoba "believes in human rights and [that] everybody should be treated with dignity and respect."
In a last show of support for Pots N Hands, a group of people will be caravaning to Morris to eat at the restaurant on its last day.
It's very unfortunate that Claringbould and his partner were harassed at all, and more so that it drove them to closing what seemed like a restaurant full of potential. But in the end, it's not their fault at all for reacting to a few bad comments in the way they did; it's the fault of every person who threw slurs or disparaging comments their way. In doing so, they alone drove a couple of friendly individuals out of work in the environment they love most.