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Queer couple kicked out of Ontario Tim Hortons

Manager of 'family-friendly' location threatened to call police

Credit: Courtesy of Murphy

UPDATE: Oct 24, 12:50pm – Tim Hortons has said it was not the manager’s intention to offend the couple.

Alexandra Cygal, manager of public affairs at Tim Hortons head office, says the couple “went beyond public displays of affection.”

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to respond. We apologize if the two guests were offended by the misunderstanding that occurred at our Blenheim restaurant last month on behalf of the owners and management. It was not their intention. Tim Hortons and its restaurant owners have always welcomed all families and communities to their restaurants and will continue to do so. It was not the manager’s intention to offend or target anyone based on their sexual orientation. The guests’ behaviour went beyond public displays of affection and was making other guests feel uncomfortable. The management has apologized to Riley and Patricia and invite them back to their restaurant.”

Cygal declined to comment further about the incident. She says her statement has been deleted from the Occupy Tim Hortons Facebook group.

Oct 24 11am – A queer couple who were kicked out of a southwestern Ontario Tim Hortons at the end of September say they have decided to go public and file a human rights complaint.

Riley Murphy, 25, and her girlfriend, Patricia Pattenden, 23, say they were shocked and offended when the manager of a Blenheim, Ontario, Tim Hortons told them the coffee shop is “family friendly” and threatened to call police. 

Murphy, who identifies as genderqueer, says the couple was sitting on a bench outside the shop with nine of Pattenden’s family members, including her mom, brother and cousin. The couple say the family was drinking coffee and talking. 

Murphy says Eric Revie, pastor of Glad Tidings Church, was inside the Tim Hortons. 

“He kept looking over at us, staring at us,” she says.

Murphy says she and Pattenden were barely showing any public affection. Pattenden had her arm around Murphy’s waist and at one point gave Murphy “a peck on the cheek.”

Murphy saw Revie speak with the shop’s manager just before she the manager approached the couple.

“The manager said what Pat and I were doing was not acceptable,” she says. “She said Tim Hortons is a family-friendly environment and we should be more respectful of other customers.”

When asked what they had done to offend people, the manager told them “touching, hand holding and making out.” Murphy says she asked the manager if this was any different from behaviour exhibited by straight couples. 

“We didn’t know we were doing anything wrong,” she says. “The manager said that if we didn’t leave in five minutes she would call police.

“We weren’t making out. My girlfriend’s whole family were there,” she says. “We left. We were already embarrassed enough.”

To add insult to injury, Murphy says, Revie then took his church group of about 15 people to the parking lot for a “prayer circle.”

“He was there with kids. I think it was a youth group,” she says. “There was quite a few people at Tim Hortons that day that saw it all.”

Joost Gratmas, owner of the Tim Hortons, has declined to comment and told Xtra he will not allow his staff to speak about the event, including the manager who asked Murphy and Pattenden to leave.

Glad Tidings Church staff have not responded to Xtra’s request for a comment. 

Activists in the area are already mobilizing to respond, says local social justice advocate Tracy Lamourie, who created a Facebook group called “Occupy Tim Hortons” on Oct 23.  Lamourie says the response has been overwhelming.

She says several protests are planned for Oct 27.