WARNING: The image of the post is below and it may be offensive to some readers.
The owner of a southwest Calgary coffee shop said he’s being smeared, after social media furore around an Adolf-Hitler-memed picture he posted in relation to reporting public health measure infractions grew.
But a long-time patron said the owner’s rationale for the post is bogus – it’s just plain offensive.
Purple Perk owner Paul Overholt told LiveWire Calgary on Monday that he’s been the frequent target of people believing his business isn’t adhering to coronavirus public health measures.
He said that both Calgary bylaw personnel and Alberta Health Services (AHS) officials have been to his Mission location to go over the rules.
Emails to AHS and the City of Calgary weren’t immediately able to confirm these visits by their personnel. Purple Perk isn’t listed on AHS infractions online.
Late Monday, the City provided a response, saying both the business license unit and AHS responded.
“The officers spoke with management and provided education on the Provincial public health orders,” the emailed statement read.
“The business owner understood the need to comply and took the necessary steps to block off the patio to discourage citizens from using it.”
Concerns about Purple Perk posted to social media
Some on social media say they’ve passed by the location to see people gathered near the entrance or on the patio, ignoring physical distancing rules.
“We’re just strictly takeout,” said Overholt.
“I get the occasional call and we’ll go out to the curb.”
Overholt said there are fixed park benches just outside his shop where people frequent. He said there’s also bus stops nearby where people are congregating.
“Apparently ours (benches) are deemed illegal or something,” he said.
That’s where the Hitler post came in. He said he believes he’s being unnecessarily “persecuted” by people calling to complain about others gathering in the area for reasons unrelated to his shop. So, he posted it in response to a doctor’s inquiry about their public health standards.
Overholt is no stranger to this kind of controversy. Last year, the shop posted a Justin Trudeau themed April Fool’s day patio area. The Prime Minister was depicted as the April Fool.
‘My heart compelled me to do the right thing.’
Long-time customer Alexander Bradley said he realizes that Calgary small businesses are struggling and that tensions are high. Especially when it’s coronavirus related.
But, using the Nazi theme to respond to the reporting frustrations, was despicable, he said. Especially on the eve of Yom HaShoah – the Holocaust Day of Remembrance – April 20 thru 21.
“I was just surprised for them to share, in such a light, of a meme of one of the biggest murderers in history and for them to make a comedic aspect of it for what pressures they’re coming under, comparing citizens to the Third Reich, was very alarming,” Bradley said.
“I’ve been a patron of that business 100s of times, and I’m thinking that my money has previously gone to a business that doesn’t see an issue in that.”
As a small business owner himself, he knows the immense strain that others are under. Bradley doesn’t want to cast anyone in a negative light.
But as a gay man, seeing the use of Hitler’s atrocities against minorities to prove a point, left him shaken. That’s what compelled him to say something.
“My heart compelled me to do the right thing. I’ve been born and raised in this community and I care about Calgary, and that’s not Calgarian behavior,” he said.
Bradley said regardless of the current coronavirus business pressures, it’s no excuse to use this content.
A better way to show frustration?
When asked if there was a more appropriate way to express his concerns over alleged malicious reporting of public health infractions, Overholt said it wasn’t a response to an individual concern.
He said they tape off their patio area and people pull it down. Someone’s “bum touches the benches” and the phone rings. They’ve been coached on the health measures, he said, and they’re doing what they need to.
“We just thought we turn the tables, that’s all. We’re just tired of being wrongly accused of not taking this seriously,” he said.