Controversy over pride flag at Fort Myers business garners support

Controversy has sparked in downtown Fort Myers this weekend after a restaurant was told by its landlord it could not fly a pride flag outside the business. People will now likely see more pride flags downtown, since a local organization has stepped in to defend the choice to display the flag in public.

The Standard Restaurant in downtown Fort Myers says it’s displayed its pride flag proudly for months. But, recently, its landlord asked them to take it down due to safety concerns.

Owner Chris Blauvelt said he doesn’t understand what safety issues could be caused by the flag outside the business. He also said the landlord has now agreed to allow it to fly outdoors part-time during certain pride events.

“He said it’s a safety hazard,” Blauvelt  said. “So we don’t see you having a flag that shows love and joy being a safety hazard.”

Leaders of local advocacy group Pride SWFL believe, if The Standard can’t display its pride flag all the time, other businesses can. The LGBTQ community organization offered about 30 flags to local businesses downtown.

“One of our board members said, ‘Hey, we have a bunch of flags left over from pride last month,’” said Mel Crawford, the president of Pride SWFL. “And it was like, ‘How about we help too?’ And it was like an absolutely great idea.”

And businesses without flag restrictions have agreed to the offer to display a pride flag downtown.

“It’s just important for like people to feel welcome when they come into an establishment, especially a restaurant setting,” said Cassidy Paul with Blu Sushi downtown. “Everyone should feel welcome coming into a restaurant. No matter what gender or sexual orientation, they shouldn’t have to worry.”

Annette Trossbach with Laboratory Theater of Florida has partnered with Pride SWFL and is helping get the word around and distribute flags to businesses wanting to display them. Trossbach said Hideaway, RE/MAX, The Butterfly Estates and Golf & Casual Shop are among other businesses that have said they will show the pride flag outside their businesses.

“It’s fantastic. I hope that it takes off I hope,” Trossbach said. “That we see rainbow flags flying all downtown, and we can all celebrate and how inclusive and kind and open a community we have.”

We reached out to the landlord at The Standard to learn more about those safety issues he’s concerned about, and we are still awaiting a response.

“Inclusivity is important to so many people,” Crawford said. “And The Standard having their flag out there, it’s a welcome mat for people who have historically been marginalized and unwelcome in places.”

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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