Drag restaurant slaps hate protestors with a lawsuit for relentless “groomer” accusations

Author: John Russell

The owners of a North Carolina restaurant that hosts popular drag brunches are striking back after anti-LGBTQ+ protesters sued them late last year.

Co-owner Carley Englander says the anti-LGBTQ+ protesters have lobbed baseless accusations of “grooming” and “pedophilia” and have caused chaos outside the downtown restaurant.

“They can claim to be peaceful and not getting in the way, but they’re blocking sidewalks and they’re interacting with our customers who are trying to use outside seating,” Englander told Queens City News recently.

Englander also told WCNC that the protesters have not only affected their business but put the restaurant’s employees and patrons in danger as well.

“It is not a safe environment when protestors stand outside of our business and say, ‘pedophilia happening here,’” Englander said.

In December, several of the protesters sued the East Frank Superette and Kitchen after the restaurant pulled photos of them from their social media accounts and altered the images to use in ads for the restaurant’s drag brunches. In the lawsuit, Union County, North Carolina, residents Michelle Ball, Ted Toms, Sofia Chabot, Amelia Ball, Eliza Ball, Jessica Mullen, and Lisa Metzger claim the restaurant violated a state law banning wrongful appropriation of personal image and North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act by altering the photos to make them look like the protesters supported the events.

“It got under their skin a lot more than we realized,” East Frank co-owner Robert Huffman said.

The restaurant claims the altered images are parodies, which is First Amendment-protected speech and covered by fair use exemptions to copyright law so long as it serves as social commentary.

Now, East Frank’s owners are countersuing the protesters for defamation. In their April 12 court filing, the restaurant claims that the protesters “routinely and regularly accused East Frank — a restaurant that, from time to time, hosts drag performances — of child abuse, child sexual exploitation, and child grooming.” Those “knowingly false accusations have damaged East Frank’s reputation, cost East Frank substantial profits, and worst of all, have exposed East Frank, its customers, and the drag performers it hosts, to threats of violence,” according to the countersuit.

“People that know us already know that it’s nonsense,” Huffman told Queens City News, “but for people who don’t know who we are yet, it’s definitely been a deterrent for them to come in.”

“Drag performances are not child abuse. They are not child sexual exploitation. They are not child grooming,” the restaurant asserts in its counterclaim.

“You can be called a pedophile and a groomer so many times before you kinda want to stand up for yourself. Though it’s not true, it still hurts your heart,” Englander said.

In March, Huffman and Englander launched a GoFundMe campaign to help fund their legal defense. They claim the “attack on our small, family owned and oriented business is being funded by a well-heeled, outside group.” So far they’ve raised just over $14,000 toward their $100,000 goal.

“This is not something we chose to do,” Englander said of the countersuit. “It was done to us, so we’re just trying to defend ourselves.”

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Actual Story on LGBTQ Nation
Author: John Russell

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