A popular Syrian restaurant in Toronto’s West Queen West neighbourhood is permanently closing its doors after the owners said their family and staff received “numerous hate messages” and death threats over the past week.
Soufi’s, which is run by the Alsoufi family, came under fire last week after the son of the restaurant’s owners was involved in an incident outside of a fundraiser in Hamilton on Sept. 29 for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada.
Video circulating online showed an elderly woman being harassed by protesters, who blocked her from entering the event.
The protesters reportedly called the elderly woman “Nazi scum” and one person put a foot in front of her walker, preventing her from moving forward.
After learning of the incident, Bernier sent out multiple tweets in support of the woman.
In an apology published on Facebook, the restaurant confirmed that the owners’ son Alaa was one of the protesters at the event.
“We would like to formally apologize for the incident that occurred with the elderly woman. Alaa regrets that he did not step aside and/ or stand up against the act of verbal abuse that occurred against her, and would love the opportunity to personally extend his apologies to her,” the Alsoufi family said, adding that their son did not in any way verbally or physically assault the elderly woman.
“Our family and business do not condone acts of hate, violence or harassment in any shape or form, and advocate for peace, equality and free speech for all human beings. Our family immigrated to Canada with the intention of living and working peacefully. Our family’s restaurant is the product of our desire to share and spread our love for our food & culture. We are extremely lucky and grateful to be here and are in awe of the kindness and warmth of the Canadian people.”
But on Tuesday, the restaurant confirmed that it could not continue to operate.
“As a result of numerous hate messages & death threats we’ve received over the past week, we’ve decided to permanently close our shop. Our decision is made with a heavy heart in (an) effort to maintain our family and staff’s safety,” a statement posted on Soufi’s Instagram account read.
“We would like to thank our lovely customers and Queen Street neighbours for their wonderful support over the past two years. We would also like to extend our love & appreciation to our wonderful staff, who have invariably embodied the hard work, dedication, passion and graciousness of Syrian newcomers.”
The family opened the restaurant in 2017 after immigrating to Canada in 2015. In their statement, they said they have been met with nothing but “curiosity, respect, acceptance and love from the people of Toronto.”
“We cherish the countless memories of us sharing stories, food, music, and laughter,” the statement concluded.
The family added that they do not wish to “hide or conceal the events that led to these threats” and would like to address them in the “near future” when it is safe to do so.