The Grace restaurant in Portland, Maine-- housed in a former Methodist church-- is still facing blow back over comments made by the owner that stirred controversy among gun owners and Second Amendment supports.
After 49 people were shot dead on June 12 in a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Grace owner Anne Verrill posted a picture of an assault rifle on Facebook and told not just anyone who owns one, but also anyone who supports the right to own one, to go eat somewhere else.
“If you own this gun, or you condone the ownership of this gun for private use, you may no longer enter either of my restaurants, because the only thing I want to teach my children is love,” wrote Verrill, who also owns the Foreside Tavern in Falmouth.
Gun possession is a serious issue in Maine, a hunting state that requires no registration of firearms and no permits to buy one, and allows residents to carry concealed weapons. The issue is especially hot right now because of a referendum being put to Mainers in November that, if approved, will expand background checks to nearly all private gun sales and transfers.
So Verrill should have anticipated what came next. There’s a cocktail on Grace’s menu called the Hollier Than Thou, which may be spelled wrong but sums up very nicely what critics thought of Verrill’s opinion. Her restaurants’ online ratings sank to greasy diner levels and they were slammed with phony reservations and their phones rang nonstop, according to the Boston Globe.
“We don’t go through every day being fearful, but you are constantly more aware of your surroundings,” Verrill said. “I knew I might upset some people, but I never could have foreseen what happened.”
Someone also launched a Facebook site promoting a boycott of the restaurants that contained comments like “I hope you get robbed and ask for help. Perhaps you should keep it a Muslim-only zone since they preach the love you adore so much. Then teach your kids to walk among them. Your attitude will change when they start beheading your family.”
Though Verrill has the right to ban guns from her restaurants by posting a sign outside, she hasn’t done that because “If they are going to bring a gun into a restaurant, they don’t care if you have a sign outside.”
But she took down her original post and removed the comments, explaining: “There were some very crazy ones. I took it down so they no longer could use it as their own platform.”
Overall, she said, her Facebook post hasn't hurt business. But she does say staff has been extra wary amid the continuing threats.
David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said he opposes the referendum but supports Verrill’s right to express her opinion.
Trahan told the Globe, “I’m also an American, and I support her right to say whatever she wants. More power to her."