FALMOUTH — When Anne Verrill posted what she thought was a condemnation of violence on Facebook, she wasn’t expecting the backlash it would generate.
“Not in a million years,” she said on Tuesday morning. “It was very surprising.”
Verrill, who owns the Foreside Tavern at 270 U.S Route 1 and Grace on Chestnut Street in Portland, last week posted a message on both businesses’ Facebook accounts that said, in part, those who own or condone the use of military assault rifles would no longer be allowed in her establishments.
She said she posted the messages as a response to her fear of letting her daughter march in the Portland Pride Parade, following the wake of the June 12 massacre at at an Orlando, Florida, night club, where 49 people were killed and 53 more injured.
“I was too afraid to put my daughter in that… something had happened to me,” she said. “I can sit there and hope something changes, or I can lend my voice to it.”
The response to the posts was immediate, and largely negative. Hundreds of people from across the country posted on the business’ Yelp and Facebook pages, giving the restaurants the lowest ratings possible.
“The fact that people in Texas and Oklahoma and where they’re all from care that much about a restaurant in Maine and want to do as much damage as they possibly can shocks me on a human nature standpoint,” Verrill said.
On the Tavern’s Facebook page, many of the negative posts alleged Verrill was discriminating against gun owners. One user posted “how is this any different than banning gays/lesbians to a establishment just because you don’t agree with there (sic) life style?”
Some of the negative comments brought race into the mix. One said “Funny how not once did you mention that it was a Muslim Islamic Terrorist who is to blame (for the Orlando shootings). Last time I checked, guns don’t just shoot by themselves.”
Others on social media came to Verrill’s defense. One Facebook user posted on the Grace page “The majority stand behind you. No civilian needs an assault weapon designed to kill as many at possible and quickly. Fear those who think it’s OK. Bravo.”
Verrill said while she wasn’t suspecting the level of backlash she received, she knew the message would put off some customers. So far, all the negative reaction has come through social media, phone calls or emails, she said, and no one has physically confronted her.
Business, she said, has remained unchanged. She said the majority of her customers have been supportive, regardless of whether they agree with her stance.
“If anything, we’ve had people come in saying they support us,” she said.
The Foreside Tavern at 270 U.S. Route 1. Owner Anne Verrill came under fire last week when she posted a Facebook message that said people who own military-style assault rifles are not welcome.
Anne Verrill posted this message to the Facebook accounts of both The Foreside Tavern and Side Bar as well as the Portland restaurant Grace. The message drew a large amount of negative backlash.