Courtney’s Restaurant and Catering owner Tom Courtney said he’s experienced a strong social media backlash because he rented the event room at his Mt. Juliet business to U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Marsha Blackburn on Saturday.
Courtney said he’s been called a Nazi, an abuser, had his life threatened and said his staff has been verbally attacked.
Hundreds of posters on social media said they would boycott his restaurant because it was a local venue to Blackburn, who is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate against former Democratic Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen.
“People have posted they love our food, but will no longer come to the restaurant,” Courtney said Monday. “I have never in my life experienced such a thing. It’s scary.”
Courtney said he didn’t file a police report about the threats.
“At first, I didn’t make a deal,” he said. “Right to free speech and everything. I don’t need to expose the idiots who are keyboard crazy and damage a small local business. The ghosts behind their posts. It will blow over. I’m just blown away though.”
The long-time restaurant owner has a meat-and-three located on North Mt. Juliet Road and has a meeting room he rents out nearly every day to musicians, local clubs and other groups. He said if the Bredesen campaign called tomorrow to rent the room, he’d say yes. It’s business for a small business trying to eke out a living.
The Blackburn campaign called him recently to rent out the room at 7 a.m. last Saturday for a breakfast and meet-and-great stop.
“I did not think anything of it,” Courtney said. “I run a business. We were going to serve a hundred-plus people.”
Courtney said he initially didn’t endorse the candidate, and just was being a businessman, but after what he’s been through he can support only Blackburn.
“I’m one who votes for the person, not the party,” he said. “But with everyone saying they are going to boycott my restaurant because Marsha came here to treat my employees and customers, I can’t even fathom people like that.”
The restaurant owner said he posted a picture of Blackburn on social media and thanked the candidate for coming to Mt. Juliet. The backlash was immediate.
“I was called a Nazi sympathizer of all things,” he said. “It’s hurt my business, my staff, me and my family. I’ve never seen grown people, or whoever is hidden behind the screens, act in such a manner. I have partners.”
On the restaurant’s website a person posted: My family loves your pizza and orders weekly. We will no longer frequent your establishment. Another poster wrote “I can’t support a business that is supporting her. I love your food but won’t be eating at your restaurant again.”
There were approximately 500 responses to those posts. Nancy Keckler Mitchell wrote “You all sound like big babies! Whining over Marsha Blackburn at Courtney’s?? Give me a break. Do you have nothing else to do? There are so many more important options you could be talking about other than Marsha Blackburn visiting Courtney’s. Grow up and quit whining.”
About 175 people, including Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty, attended the breakfast event.
Courtney used social media to defend himself, writing “This is a family restaurant. It sells food. When people come in and order food, we sell it to them. We book events for all sorts of things including charities and business alliances, social organizations and such. We do NOT discriminate on race, religion or political affiliation. We have all manner of people eating in our establishment every day. They sit beside each other as neighbors and get along just fine. We are a family restaurant and we treat everyone as family with integrity and respect. Our employees’ political affiliations are their own. We have both parties represented and we work shoulder to shoulder each day. We would appreciate you treating us with the same respect as we treat each of you.”