10/6/2017 UPDATE: The owner has since apologized. Read the follow-up article here.
When Fort Myers, FL resident Sarah Allen decided to take her wife out on a much-needed date night, sans kids, she visited the Foodies Unite! My Local SWFL Facebook group searching for romantic restaurant suggestions.
She typed, “I want dinner on the beach. Not trashy atmosphere. Prefer music. Not too crazy expensive. LGBT friendly. Any ideas.” Then she sat back and waited for helpful responses.
Unfortunately, she got more than she bargained for when local business owner John Adams replied, “How about u go back to wahhh Ville and suck on some homo LGBT. Make this ur last post on a ASK “MY” SWFL lgbt are not welcome here.”
At first, Allen sat in shock, surprised by the homophobic response. She immediately contacted the group administrator, Paul Harper, to ask that the comment be removed and that Adams be blocked from the page.
Although Harper responded right away, encouraging her to block the comment or delete her post, the comment by Adams, and the divisive replies that followed, remained on the site for hours. Comments included suggestions that Allen should “keep it in her pants,” “was just looking for attention,” and should “move to California.”
Allen eventually removed herself from the page to avoid further negativity. Still shaken, she and her wife opted to order in a pizza instead.
Adams, owner of Court Flooring, Inc., is no longer a member of the page, although it is unclear as to whether he was blocked or removed himself.
Harper later posted on the page, “The administration of this group does not support or endorse the attacking of other members for any reason…. It is always the intent of My Local SWFL to create communities where all feel welcome to engage and participate.”
Allen remains disappointed and concerned by the negative comments from her community. As a co-owner of four Jersey Mike’s restaurant locations, including the one in Bonita Springs, FL, she had hoped to find LGBT-friendly restaurants in the region and to connect with other area LGBT-supportive business owners. Now she’s not so sure they’re out there.
Allen said to Harper yesterday evening, after the comments were deleted, “The responses I received were exactly why I felt the need to ask this question. I am very upset and disgusted.”
In support of Allen and the rest of the (Southwest Florida) SWFL LGBT community, OUTCOAST is asking all LGBT-inclusive restaurants and business owners in SWFL, and beyond, to share this article on their Facebook business pages with the hashtag #lgbtwelcome. OUTCOAST will share and retweet your posts, throughout the month of October, in honor of LGBT History Month.
Please also visit one of Allen’s Jersey Mike’s locations to show your support for an LGBT business owner.