Vermont Town Embroiled in Debate Over 'Bacon' Sign

Wednesday, 27 Aug 2014 12:35 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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A Winooski, Vermont, restaurant is at the center of a social media firestorm for removing a sign touting its bacon after a vegan Muslim resident took offense.

"It's blown up beyond all imagination," Winooski City Manager Katherine "Deac" Decarreau told The Burlington Free Press.

The controversy is rooted in a program started by the city to encourage local businesses and residents to contribute to the upkeep of flower beds along area roads. As part of "Operation Bloom," if a business agrees to garden, they are allowed to put up a sign of their choice.

Sneakers Bistro and Cafe chose "Yield For Sneakers Bacon."

Soon thereafter, a woman identifying herself as "a member of a Muslim household" wrote on an online forum that, given "the large number of Muslim families in Winooski, as well as many others who do not eat pork for a variety of reasons, it seems unnecessary for this insensitive business sign to be at the city's main crosswalk," the Free-Press reported.

The owners took the sign down, a decision that sparked a backlash.

On Aug. 23, Sneakers Bistro responded on Twitter, "We are here to serve people BREAKFAST, not politics."

A link to the restaurant's Facebook message was inactive Wednesday. But the statement,
reported by BizPacReview, read, "We removed the sign that was located on public property as a gesture of respect for our diverse community. There were also concerns raised about safety. Removing it was not a difficult decision. We still love bacon. We still love eggs. Please have the political conversation elsewhere."

Sneakers owner Marc Dysinger said he had reached out to the person who complained and said the restaurant did not mean to cause any offense, WPTX News reported.

The city of Winooski posted a news release from Decarreau, stating that she saw the request as one that "came as a vegan, not as a Muslim." Decarreau proceeded to defend the restaurant's decision to take down the sign because they did so out of a desire to "be a good neighbor."

After Sneakers removed its Facebook message, those who disagreed with its decision launched their own page and encouraged residents to voice their complaints on the comments section of Sneakers Bistro's website.

Decarreau told the Free-Press the city will ask the Winooski Coalition for a Safe and Peaceful Community for advice, but has no plans to take any further action or make any policy changes.

"Like I said, it's an issue of free speech, and I'm not sure where city government gets involved," Decarreau said.

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