Teatotaller café and coffee shop in Somersworth, New Hampshire, which bills itself as “an oasis of queer, hipster tea, coffee, and pastry goodness” had locals up in arms after it erected a super-fab billboard for Pride last month.
The ad features a boy in hot shorts and pink eyeshadow, biting into a sandwich, with the tag line “I like my men like I like my coffee.”
Within hours, the shop’s Facebook page was filled with comments, most of them nasty.
“Instead of choosing to appeal to a broad demographic for their first large-scale advertisement, they choose a controversial approach and lock out a substantial percentage of what would have been potential customers who, for whatever reason, have a problem with what’s being presented in this ad,” one person wrote. Added another, “Having to try to explain why a man wants to look like a woman is a little much to have to explain to my child at this age.”
Others, however, praised the ad for its satirical humor. “I personally didn’t even think about sexual orientation. I think it’s cute and funny. I’d love to see my [boyfriend] like this with my breakfast,” one person wrote.
The billboard also caught the eye of Somersworth Mayor Dana Hilliard, who acknowledged that while it may “push the limits” of some locals’ “comfort level,” it’s nonetheless a prime example of a free market society. “Living within a democratic society which values First Amendment guaranteed rights, discussion and discourse means that we will be exposed to opinions and sometimes ads which are counter to the way we think,” Hilliard told The Foster’s Daily Democrat.
Teatotaller’s co-owners Emmett Soldati and Palana Belken defended the billboard to HuffPo, saying they aimed to be “provocative, but only in a way that we, a local business and local personality, were already doing.”
“From our modest beginnings in 2011, Teatotaller has sought to inspire, excite, and engage a community of citizens looking for vibrancy and decadence. We are a venue for everyone looking for cosmopolitan flair in a sleepy town,” Soldati and Belken, who said they received positive feedback from customers, wrote. “Over the course of our history, this has included embracing the weird, the eccentric, and the queer. Going against the tide of establishments one might expect in a small working-class downtown, Teatotaller has always ‘stuck its neck out’ and stood up for the values and aesthetics it admires.”