Downtown restaurant cuts ties with Shopify

By Santana Bellantoni

A prominent Centretown restaurant has severed its relationship with the online merchandising platform Shopify because the tech firm announced it will keep the right-wing American digital news source Breitbart among its clients.

Shopify, an Ottawa-based company headquartered on Elgin Street, hosts an e-commerce platform that allows businesses to run their own online store. Breitbart, formerly controlled by Steve Bannon — now U.S. President Donald Trump’s top adviser — sells politically-charged, pro-Trump merchandise using the Shopify platform.

Shopify CEO Tobias Lütke said in a recent statement that despite the backlash his company has experienced from many consumers and businesses for hosting Breitbart’s online store, the e-commerce giant intends to keep the controversial client.

“Shopify is an unlikely defender of Breitbart’s right to sell products,” Lütke wrote in a widely published response to the uproar.  “I’m a liberally minded immigrant, leading a predominantly liberal workforce, hailing from predominantly liberal cities and countries. I’m against exclusion of any kind — whether that’s restricting people from Muslim-majority nations from entering the US, or kicking merchants off our platform if they’re operating within the law.”

Breitbart’s online store sells T-shirts with messages such as: “Hate America? We’ll help you relocate” and “Border wall construction”.

Somerset Street restaurant Union Local 613 isn’t happy with Shopify’s decision to keep Breitbart as a client. The restaurant chose to stop working with Shopify because of this relationship.

The eatery posted a message on Facebook and Instagram to explain its decision to stop doing business with Shopify.

“After much consideration we have decided to suspend our relationship with Ottawa-based Shopify until such time as they can better articulate their business dealings with Breitbart,”  Union Local 613 stated. “We will use the platform to finish any current events we have running. We are not blind to the fact that other commerce platforms probably engage with other unsavoury elements, however the views and de facto mandate of Breitbart stand in direct opposition to the values we hold as a business.”

We are also not kidding ourselves in thinking our small shop’s decision will make any substantial impact, but staying true to our principles and ethics is paramount to our business model.”

The restaurant used Shopify to sell tickets to its events.

Dylan Hunt, a freelance web developer and former employee of Shopify, commented on the restaurant’s Facebook post, questioning the restaurant’s decision.

“I had seen a lot of people commenting (with) seemingly unresearched comments, just saying they were going to boycott the company. And it seemed like it was a mix of not knowing what was going on and also kind of looked as though they were seeking media attention and taking advantage of a situation that was happening to a local company, and that kind of bothered me,” said Hunt.

Even though Hunt disagrees with Union Local 613’s decision, he said he appreciates that the business has a voice.

Local restaurant worker Natasha Corbett Wennekes supports Union Local 613’s decision.

“Union is a great spot. It’s just nice to know that they think that (about Breitbart), as well. They don’t want to be associated with anything that has homophobia, racism or sexism. That’s a good vibe to have,” she said.