Arundel cafe owners speak out after ‘bullying’ messages leave them ‘stressed and worried’

The owners of an Arundel cafe have spoken out after receiving ‘hateful’ and ‘bullying’ messages about their business.

George Johnson and Lily Trunfull from LG Cafe
George Johnson and Lily Trunfull from LG Cafe

George Johnson, who runs LG Cafe with his partner Lily Trunfull, said they had never been made to feel particularly welcome in the town since launching two years ago.

They have always received unpleasant messages, but Mr Johnson said in the last week there had been ‘100 or so’ negative comments about the business posted online.

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“It’s been going on for a while but this week it ramped up,” Mr Johnson said.

LG Cafe in Arundel

“A very small selection of local people have been leaving horrid comments online, saying we bring in the wrong sort of people, we shouldn’t be open, it’s not want Arundel wants.”

The pair stayed quiet for a long time but decided to speak out after receiving a letter which accused them of bringing ‘the wrong type of people to our distinguished town’ and describing their customers as ‘scantily clad maskless chavs’.

“We got to the point where we had to address it,” he said. “We can’t make excuses for this kind of thing. Bullying and harassment aren’t right.”

The letter claimed the cafe being open was causing ‘long queues down Tarrant Street’ with ‘no social distancing at all’ – but Mr Johnson said the shop was open for takeaways only in accordance with lockdown measures, like other cafes and restaurants in the town, and that safety measures were in place.

LG cafe in Arundel

The messages have had a real impact on the pair.

“We’ve been very stressed and worried,” he said. “During these times, small business owners, we’re only trying to survive.”

Employees and their families rely on the shop being open, as do many local suppliers. “We feel we are responsible for a lot more people than just ourselves,” he said.

He stressed that these were not the views of the whole town, just ‘a small minority of people’ who were ‘very vocal’.

A safety measure at the cafe

“To be honest I’m sad. Me and my partner, we feel sorry for these people,” he said. “There must be something in their lives, to put out hate like that, they’re probably unhappy.”

He believes the messages are down to ‘old-fashioned snobbery’ from people who do not like change.

“I think there’s a certain percentage of the town that are still living in the sixteenth century,” he said. “And obviously as we became established and busier, jealousy comes into it.”

Despite the messages, he said they had never considered shutting the cafe.

A welcome to Arundel sign

“It makes us do the opposite,” said Mr Johnson, who also owns the ice cream parlour in the town. “That’s where people make a mistake. We are not quitters.

“We’ve built two successful businesses in Arundel. We’re not going anywhere.

“The only way you can fight hate is with love. Love and peace, that’s what we’re about.”

The cafe has dedicated customers that came to them every week.

“They come to us and say, this is our only escape in these dark times,” he said. “Four people have come to collect birthday boxes this week. These people can’t celebrate, getting a box of cakes is the only celebration they’ve got.”

Since speaking out about the negative messages on their social media pages, the cafe has received a deluge of support – with hundreds of positive comments from residents.

“It feels really good,” he said.