CALGARY — A homeless man says being thrown out of a Calgary restaurant because of his appearance was “degrading,” but adds he was encouraged by the kindness of strangers during the incident.
Ryan Gartner, a patron at Original Joe’s in the city’s trendy Kensington district, said he and friends were out for dinner when they saw the homeless man at the next table, eating a meal that a Good Samaritan had bought for him.
“We said hi to him, got his name … offered to help him out, if we could buy him a meal or anything like that,” said Gartner. “He was a quiet dude, friendly, he wasn’t harming anybody.”
But Gartner said once they asked the man, named Shawn, to join them, a bartender stepped in and told him to get out of the restaurant.
“This homeless gentlemen asked if he was being asked to leave because he was homeless. To which the bartender replied, ‘Yes, you’re dirty and you stink and you look offensive to people.’ ”
Jordan Prescesky, vice-president of Original Joe’s, said the worker has been suspended until the restaurant can review the complaint.
Shawn spoke out Tuesday about the incident.
“It was degrading … made me feel like a piece of dirt,” he said. “I didn’t want to cause a scene, so I left.
“I mean, I am living in the bush, I’m down on my luck, you know? I could use some help.”
He wanted to thank Gartner for his compassion, saying the simple gesture made him feel worthy.
“Gartner was really nice, reached in his pocket pulled everything out, all his money in his pocket.”
Prescesky said in a statement that Shawn is known to staff at the restaurant.
“He often comes in to exchange coins for paper money which we happily do for him,” Prescesky said.
“On this occasion, the guest enjoyed a meal and beverage; however, shortly after, our bartender indicated he became disruptive with staff and patrons and was asked to leave the restaurant.”
Prescesky said it would be standard procedure to ask a disruptive person to leave.
“We are taking the accusation of derogatory remarks made to this individual very seriously and are still investigating the matter,” he said.
“Original Joe’s has zero tolerance for this type of behaviour towards anyone in our establishment.”
Prescesky said the restaurant regularly donates to charities that support the homeless.