Toronto restaurant closes under what Black female chef says are unfair circumstances
Even as people strive to support Black-owned businesses and restaurants in Toronto, one has closed after the female chef there alleges it "never had a fighting chance" unbeknownst to her.
"True True Diner is officially closed. We had temporarily closed at the start of the pandemic in March as did many restaurants with the hopes of reopening, but now, this will never happen," Suzanne Barr wrote in a statement. She's also been a chef at Avling and The Gladstone Hotel and owned popular brunch spot Saturday Dinette.
"We didn't want to close our doors. The decision was made for us by partners who intentionally kept us in the dark. We wanted to keep going, and keep growing, and our staff were on board. Our customers were on board. We'd made plans for a post-Covid restaurant; however were not given a chance to succeed."
The restaurant was known for Afro-Caribbean soulful comfort food served in a diner setting that paid homage to civil rights movement sit-ins. They paid above minimum wage, practiced advocacy in many ways and hired newcomers, youth, students and people of colour.
She says that "the story behind what happened and who was involved is still a private matter."
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Today, it is with heavy heart I have to announce that True True Diner is officially closed. . It was so much more than just a restaurant. It was a hub for people looking for familiar vibes, offering Afro-Caribbean, soulful comfort food. A safe place where we celebrated and lifted Black chefs and others who deserved to be seen. We chose to open as a diner to honour all the civil rights sit-ins that happened in diners across North America and helped shape Black history. . We didn’t want to close our doors. The decision was made for us by partners who intentionally kept us in the dark. Prior to the pandemic, as a black-owned, female operated venue in the heart of Toronto, True True Diner preached and practiced strong social programs supporting youth, students, newcomers and chefs of colour. We paid above minimum wage and yet, during the pandemic struggles, our white privileged partners got a big slice of that hand-out pie and didn’t even think to offer us a bite. We tried so hard to keep this business going with pitched plans of innovative and meaningful pivots. To no avail. . Our small businesses are no match for the toxic and biased systemic structures that can legally and quite easily dismiss everything we’ve worked so hard to build. . We wanted to keep it going to support our extended family of staff and customers and to continue the work that became so crucial to our community. We advocated for fair and just rights for black, indigenous and people of colour. For food security and accessibility. Equal pay. Created safe spaces. Championed mental health within our industry. We provided advancing opportunities for people with visible and invisible disabilities. . I am NOT defeated. I am taking back my power. . This is a call to action to all our brothers and sisters and allies. Contact your local governments and call out these injustices. Support Black, Indigenous, POC and LGBTQ businesses. Call out companies that use and abuse corporate law and financial institution gains. Although True True Diner is closed, this is just the beginning. The TRUTH will never be closed. (Full statement link in bio) #BlackLivesMatter Thank you
Barr does allege that "during the pandemic struggles, our white privileged partners got a big slice of that hand-out pie and didn't even think to offer us a bite. We tried so hard to keep this business going with pitched plans of innovative and meaningful pivots. We were turned down at every opportunity by our partners."
If you know Suzanne Barr, you know this is far from the last you'll see of her. She's publishing a memoir with recipes called Homecoming in 2021, and there's a documentary in the works about True True Diner.
Prior to transforming into True True Diner, the space on King East was a short-lived pizza joint called True True. A location on Queen West also shuttered after only being in business for a brief time.
Barr says in her statement that "Our small businesses are no match for the toxic and biased systemic structures that can legally and quite easily dismiss everything we've worked so hard to build," but signs off by saying she is "not defeated" and that "Although True True Diner is closed, this is just the beginning. The TRUTH will never be closed."
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