A Halifax tea shop owner says he is thankful for the community support for his business after facing five weeks of protests from anti-maskers.
“It really has been amazing,” said World Tea House owner Philip Holmans.
On Nov. 5 Holmans, who owns the shop on Argyle Street in Halifax, offered free tea to masked patrons from 6-8 p.m. in response to anti-mask group Freedom Nova Scotia’s plans to hold a tea party protest in front of his shop.
Holmans said that when the group first showed up at his shop a few weeks ago, they refused to wear their masks inside and said they had medical exemptions.
Masks are required in indoor public spaces in accordance with Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 protocols. Proof of vaccination is required at food establishments where people sit down to eat or drink, including outdoor patios.
Holmans offered to serve the group outside.
He said he tolerated the group’s presence until some of them purposefully misgendered a member of his staff. Holmans decided to deny the group service.
“I just got sick of it. I’m like, no. You know what? You’re not worth a three dollar hot chocolate.”
Holmans said his business would experience a fifty per cent decrease in revenue during the group’s weekly Friday gatherings on Argyle Street.
“Basically nobody comes down here when they see them … they’ll turn around and walk the other way because they don’t want to be around them,” he said.
When Holmans heard the group were planning a tea party protest in front of his shop, he decided to counter with a protest of his own.
“I love tea parties. That’s kind of my jam,” he said.
The planned tea party protest did not materialize. Instead, the group set up down the street in front of The Toothy Moose bar. Holmans said Halifax Regional Police were aware of the protest.
The group’s presence did not deter the free tea event meant to inspire “solidariTEA.” Dozens of supportive community members came to drink tea on the outdoor patio of World Tea House, with some opting to buy their own tea.
Friends Rachelle Gionet, Elinor Crosby and Renee McTavish came to show their support for Holmans.
McTavish said Holmans is a “huge” part of the community.
“So I’m happy to sit out here and drink a little free tea and hang out with my friends and support Phil,” she said.
Holmans said he would welcome the protesters if they were masked.
“If the protesters decide that they want to put on a mask, I will absolutely give them tea too. And I know they won’t because they’re against masks, but the option is there for them to get a free tea if they just put a piece of cloth on their face for 20 seconds.”