Local Restaurant Takes Heat for Refusing to Host PFLAG
BELMONT, N.C. - For years, Johnny B's Pizza Pad has hosted Spirit Nights, pairing most often with elementary schools and sometimes with non-profits, to give them 15 percent of a designated evening's earnings.
The Gaston chapter of Parents Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, asked Johnny B's owner Doug Rogers if he'd host a spirit night for them. This week, he declined. Rogers tells WCCB, "I'm trying to stay away from controversial issues and run my business. I have customers on both sides of opinions." He also says, "I don't wish ill-will on anybody. I wanna run my business, my doors are open to all walks of life."
But that is not how PFLAG Gaston president Ginger Feimster, also a Johnny B's regular, remembers the conversation. She tells WCCB, "That's nothing like (how) it went down. (He told me) he did not agree with the lifestyle and he would not support anything to do with the lifestyle."
A small social media firestorm erupted. Rogers tells WCCB he deleted about two dozen negative comments off the pizza parlor's Facebook page. Gaston County Commissioner Tracy Philbeck took to Facebook to defend the business, saying PFLAG was bullying the restaurant. "When you have groups like this that come into our county and deliberately berate and shake down a business, I'm gonna call that out for what it is. It is absolutely wrong, and I would say leave our county if that's the way they are gonna act," says Philbeck.
Feimster says she will no longer eat at Johnny B's, but has not suggested a boycott of the restaurant. PFLAG Gaston co-founder Robert Kellogg tells WCCB, "Nobody is calling for a boycott of Johnny B's but I do believe that people in our community should understand that this type of subtle bigotry, and I will call it bigotry because I do think we have to stand up and say exactly what it is, subtle bigotry, does exist and it's still here."
The owner of Johnny B's tells WCCB business has been good this week, including Friday, despite the rainy weather. He also says PFLAG isn't the first group he's declined.