Food by VICE

Gay Teens Say Gyro Restaurant Worker Told Them 'Their Kind' Was Not Welcome

“He followed up his remarks by saying if it was a guy and a girl hugging that would be OK, but not two guys—you can’t have any of that here."

by Jelisa Castrodale
May 17 2019, 7:07pm

Photo: Getty Images / Composite by VICE Staff

They’d originally planned to go to Pi-Hi. If the lines hadn’t been so long at the wood-fired pizza restaurant, then Jolie Mahr and her friends likely would have had a very different day.

Instead, they went to Big Boy Gyros in Chicago on Monday afternoon, and Mahr says that the trouble started shortly after she and some of her Lane Tech High School classmates walked into the restaurant. “Two of my friends, who are both male and do happen to be dating, gave each other an innocent hug,” Mahr told Block Club Chicago. “A normal embrace that you could expect from two people who are friends.”

She said that the man behind the counter immediately shouted at Kendall Anderson and Peder Sevig to stop hugging. Initially, they thought that he just had “an issue with PDA,” but he made it clear that his problem was with Anderson and Sevig, personally. “He followed up his remarks by saying if it was a guy and a girl hugging that would be OK, but not two guys—you can’t have any of that here,” she quoted him as saying.

Mahr posted about their experience on Instagram, and said that after the Big Boy employee made those comments, she and the rest of her group, which was mostly LGBTQ teenagers, started packing up to leave the restaurant. “I know for a fact that I will no longer be eating at Big Boy Gyros considering this establishment not only tolerated but actively participated in such a disgusting act of hate towards two teenage boys,” she wrote. “Thank you [...] if you choose to join me in the fight against homophobia in our society by boycotting Big Boy Gyros.”

On Tuesday, Lane Tech administrators sent out an email, recounting the incident and basically telling parents that they were on their students’ side.

“As a school, we are disheartened because our students were treated with disrespect and made to feel unwelcome,” the school wrote. “As a community, we stand strong and we want to make it clear that Lane Tech does not stand for discrimination of any kind. We will not tolerate hatred and will not support an organization that promotes hatred of any kind. We support any students, staff and community members that choose to not support Big Boy Gyros.”

MUNCHIES called Big Boy Gyros for comment and the woman who answered the phone said “No, it’s a busy time,” and hung up. An email to the restaurant was returned as undeliverable and they have deleted their Facebook page.

Although none of the restaurant’s Yelp reviews mention any previous homophobic behavior, some of them do report “unnecessarily rude” employees or mention unpleasant interactions with the staff. “Your cashier should probably get on the grill and not interact with customers because SHE doesn't have an ounce of people skills,” one reviewer wrote. “Worst service I've ever had in my entire life,” another commented. “Rude, condescending, and hostile barely start to describe the people working here.”

Anderson told told CBS Chicago that before he, Sevig, and their friends left Big Boy Gyros, the man behind the counter said “‘Get out. We don’t want your kind here, anyway.”

But many people don’t want to patronize restaurants where two boys can’t hug, anyway.