Manitoba restaurant owner says she's closing because of racism
Published Wednesday, November 27, 2013 10:48AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 27, 2013 7:41PM EST
The owner of a Caribbean restaurant in Morris, Man. says she's closing her doors after receiving a racist email, marking the second time this year an establishment has shut down because of discrimination in the small town.
Jamaican-born Thea Morris opened Thea's Diner in the town of 1,800 this past July in the same location that used to house a restaurant run by two gay men.
This past spring, the men closed their doors and left the town after they said homophobia made it difficult to keep the business going.
Since opening Thea’s Diner, Morris says she's been subjected to a number of disrespectful occurrences at the diner because of her race.
Morris, who lives in Winnipeg, said she's tried to ignore past incidents, but the final straw came when she received a racist email in response to a job opening she had posted on Kijiji.
She posted the email on her Facebook page on Monday, which read: "You guys still chasing colors out of your towns out there? I believe the KKK has a chapter in south Dakota you should join!"
The message was sent from the email address email@example.com.
"That is it…I am closing the restaurant," Morris wrote on Facebook.
In the same post, Morris described how "different groups of well-dressed people" would enter the restaurant and order drinks.
But before the serving staff could return, the group would storm out, "leaving a very negative feeling about the place to staff and remaining customers," she wrote.
When Morris said she noticed a drop in business in August, a customer explained to her what was happening.
“He told me the reason why I don’t have anybody in here is because of my colour,” she said.
Morris also said one of her employees found a dead hawk on their windshield after closing the restaurant for the night.
The town has made headlines in the past for reasons that go beyond discrimination at the restaurant.
A recent editorial in a local newspaper referred to aboriginal people as lazy terrorists.
Morris Mayor Gavin van der Linde said he is outraged over what has transpired and is also concerned the town is receiving an unfair reputation.
“It doesn’t represent a part of our community that I’m aware of,” he said.
Linde said he’s confident people will support Thea Morris, and says it’s already happening to some extent.
“It’s unfortunate that people react that way, it truly is, and that’s why I’m here,” patron Darren Olynick told CTV Winnipeg while visiting the diner Wednesday.
Some residents say the diner’s problems have nothing to do with racism, but high prices. Others question Morris’s motive and suggest it’s a “publicity stunt.”
They maintain the town is a friendly place.
“I am raising two native children and we have never run into any racism,” one woman told CTV News.
But Morris maintains she’s felt it firsthand.
“It’s not easy, we just trying to make a living,” she said.
Morris said she has given her landlord notice and plans to leave by the end of December.
With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Jeff Keele