It may have been a tough lesson for Todd Pratt, but he learned something in the storm of social media criticism over the treatment a breastfeeding mother received at his restaurant, the Frogstone Grill.
His apology came just in time to avoid a nurse-in protest at the restaurant, across from Telosky Stadium.
Maple Ridge mother of four Brianne McNally posted on her Facebook Page on June 5:
“For the first time in almost nine years and four kids, I was asked today by the manager of a restaurant to cover myself with a blanket when nursing my baby. For the reason that “this is a restaurant, and there is food around,” on a very hot day, in a restaurant without air conditioning … put a blanket over your baby’s head while you feed her. I’d like to see that woman eat her dinner with a blanket over her head. We will never, ever eat at the Frogstone Grill again.”
The post was followed by a large number of supportive comments, such as:
“Oh my! That is sickening, I am sorry you had that happen,” from Tisha Scoffins.
“Our backwards society embraces breast exposure for everything but breastfeeding, the very thing God created them for,” from Kelly Ablett.
“They violated your human rights,” wrote Adelaide Goldberg. “There have been lawsuits won against restaurants who ask this! “
Goldberg is right, but Pratt wasn’t aware of the law surrounding this issue.
He initially defended his staff’s approach.
In what he wrote was his first Facebook post, Pratt said women have been breastfeeding at the Frogstone Grill since it opened 16 years ago. He has three kids, and his grandchild has nursed in the restaurant many times.
“We want everyone who joins us to have a great meal in a comfortable atmosphere. What we don’t want is women that feel they need to bare it all while feeding their baby. They will be asked to cover themselves up,” he said.
“There is already one topless bar in town and council won’t approve another,” he added.
The comparison between a nursing mother and an exotic dancer at The Caddyshack featured prominently in the online grilling that Pratt subsequently received.
He heard from numerous “irate moms,” and was contacted by media outlets, including CTV and CBC.
A Facebook page was organizing a nurse-in protest at the Frogstone.
Pratt explained in an interview that his staff responded to a request from other customers that McNally be asked to cover her nursing baby.
“Our business is trying to please everybody, and that can be difficult,” he said.
But once he learned the law – that the B.C. Human Rights Code says a breastfeeding mother cannot be asked to cover up – Pratt apologized.
“We have 150,000 people talking about breastfeeding in an eight-hour time span. Pretty spectacular when you think about it,” he observed in an online comment.
“My topless bar comment was not appropriate and I apologize
“At no time have we ever stopped a mom from breastfeeding, but I was not aware that we were not allowed to ask her to cover her breasts up either,” he said. “I have learned from this incident and hopefully other businesses can learn as well. I apologize to Brianne McNally and her family for any discomfort this may have caused them. It certainly was not our intention.”
The protest was called off after some online debate.
I think in order for the Breastfeeding “movement” to be what it should be, positive, his apology needs to be accepted, people need to remove or fix their reviews, and he should be supported through patronage,” wrote Cara Herbert. “If he is still vilified, then you lose traction. It’s a win, so it should be celebrated and then everyone needs to move on. Positive change happened here. Someone was enlightened and that is kind of the point.”