Dozens of people are planning to protest outside a Tim Hortons in Blenheim on Thursday after a same-sex couple says they were told to leave the coffee shop because they were lesbians.
A spokeswoman for Tim Hortons says the couple was asked to leave after they “went beyond public displays of affection” while visiting the outlet three weeks ago.
While the chain is apologizing to Riley Duckworth, 25, of London, and her partner Patricia Pattenden, 23, for what it calls a misunderstanding, Ms. Duckworth says she is not satisfied.
Ms. Duckworth says she and her partner were outside drinking coffee with a group of family and friends and saw a man watching them from inside the restaurant.
She says soon after, the man went up to the counter, and a few minutes later the assistant manager came out and asked the couple to stop doing what they were doing and leave.
Ms. Duckworth says her partner had her hand around her waist, and had kissed her on the cheek once or twice but she denies they were groping each other.
“The manager said that our behaviour was inappropriate and that it was a family friendly establishment and it wasn't acceptable there,” Ms. Duckworth said.
“We would need to leave within five minutes or the cops would be called,” she said they were told.
They were shocked but left to avoid creating a scene, she said. They have been to the same outlet previously and had received stares from customers, but nothing had ever been said, she added.
As the couple left, the pastor at a local church allegedly held a prayer circle with more than a dozen people in the parking lot to “pray for the couple's souls,” Ms. Duckworth said.
Alexandra Cygal, manager of public affairs at Tim Hortons' head office, said it was not the store's intention to “offend or target anyone based on their sexual orientation.”
“Tim Hortons and its restaurant owners have always welcomed all families and communities to their restaurants and will continue to do so,” she said.
“The guests' behaviour went beyond public displays of affection and was making other guests feel uncomfortable,” she said.
The management has apologized to the women and invited them back to their restaurant, added Ms. Cygal.
Ms. Duckworth said she was not contacted directly by anyone at Tim Hortons and read the apology for the first time on a website.
A Facebook group was created Sunday evening calling for a demonstration outside the outlet on Thursday that will be attended by friends, family and supporters including members of Pride Chatham-Kent.
By late Monday morning, several hundred people had joined the Facebook group.
Ms. Duckworth says she'll never return to Tim Hortons again.
“We want to make sure this won't happen again to anybody else because it's wrong and it should have never happened in the first place.”