I recently had dinner with friends who happen to run a bed and breakfast, and we were discussing the fact that I was contacted by a reporter from a local newspaper asking us why we were one of the only businesses listed as gay friendly in Central Illinois. These friends, besides being great people whose company I very much enjoy, also happen to be gay. They asked me if I was concerned about backlash because we were openly supportive of the LGBT community, and I — without hesitation — responded absolutely not.
Let me preface this discussion with stating that I grew up in Southern California in the theater community which means per capita I probably have more gay friends than most people do. For me it was and is “the norm.” When we started our business nine years ago, we did so with the full intention of being a business for EVERYONE. This means, I don’t care what your race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation is ... you are welcome.
My job as an innkeeper is one and one only, and that is hospitality. This means I will and do treat everyone with equal respect. I feed everyone the same, carefully prepare food filled with love and passion, provide everyone with a comfortable room to sleep in and converse casually with everyone without judgment.
This is why this question perturbed me. My friends suggested that perhaps people would choose not to stay with us because we were “gay friendly,” which is something I can’t even wrap my head around.
Upon first glance at our inn you will notice one distinct characteristic, and that is an eclectic and diverse mix of artifacts from all over the world. These items represent cultures, people, religions and ethnicities of all kind. Our view is one of inclusion, and that is simply who we are. So the notion that somehow our desire to include others would inherently exclude some seems counterintuitive.
Yet, I suspect that for some, they simply cannot get past the fact that they will be sharing a home with others who may somehow represent something they fundamentally disagree with. And you know what? That’s fine. Out of respect to those people if it offends them that deeply than I will say that perhaps this isn’t the right place for them to stay. There are many other options for them where they will feel more comfortable, but I refuse to compromise my fundamental belief that all of us are created equal and should be treated equally.
My friends applauded my stance but I wanted to tell them I don’t deserve applause for what I think should be natural. If you are running a business that provides services to the general public, you cannot willfully exclude anyone. It doesn’t make business sense. People have the right to choose to either frequent your business or not, but a smart business owner shouldn’t discriminate against anyone.
So like I say, everyone is welcome here. We want them to come, relax, have a good time, eat some great food and get the opportunity to be pampered equally.
Monika Sudakov is the chef and innkeeper at the Chestnut Street Inn in Sheffield. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.