Good Robot stands by staff, calls far-right group’s visit an ‘opportunity to learn’

A Halifax brewery says it has learned a lesson after serving drinks to members of a far-right political party led to serious social media backlash. Elizabeth McSheffrey has more.

A Halifax brewery is standing by its staff in the wake of social media backlash for having served members of a far-right political party after a demonstration downtown on Saturday.

By the time employees at Good Robot Brewing on Robie Street had agreed to remove members of the National Citizens Alliance (NCA) on June 22, those members had already paid their tab and left.

The registered political party, whose website espouses anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant statements, held a controversial rally in Grand Parade earlier that day. It was met by more than 150 counter-protesters, two of whom were arrested during interactions with the party.

READ MORE: Good Robot Brewing, Islamic centre now ‘good neighbours’ after complaints

“I think it’s an opportunity to learn,” said brewery co-founder and marketing director Joshua Counsil. “At the very least, it’s a situation that hasn’t occurred before with our company.

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“… It gives us reason to develop protocol moving forward about how to handle the situation, but overall, I’m very proud with the way they handled it.”

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According to a statement on Good Robot’s website, a staff member recognized the NCA members who entered the beer garden after the rally, and “expressed their discomfort in serving them” to management. A team decision, sanctioned by the brewery’s ownership, was then made to ask those guests to leave.

But the NCA members — including party leader Stephen Garvey — settled their tabs and left before staff could do so. They also posted a picture of their visit in the beer garden, which launched a stream of social media backlash targeting Good Robot for serving them.

Counsil told Global News he understands why folks were upset.

“I think it’s reasonable for a community to be concerned about the folks that occupy a business that is invested in that community,” he explained.

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Asked if he was concerned about setting a precedent by removing the NCA members based on their political beliefs, Counsil said it’s possible, but that’s OK by him. Good Robot has a loud and proud value system, he added, and it stands by those staff-endorsed ethics.

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WATCH: Two men arrested after political protest turned heated in Halifax

Two men arrested after political protest turned heated in Halifax
Two men arrested after political protest turned heated in Halifax

“Ultimately a local business, one in hospitality for example, cannot be expected to be judge, jury and executioner,” he said. “However, in the instance of our company, we do have a set of values that we established with folks within the company, and we agreed to as a company with almost 40 staff.

“So when someone comes in and explicitly as an organization denounces the things that many of our folks hold sacred, and we have a printed and signed values document, ultimately, them simply being present is at odds with who we are and what we believe in.”

READ MORE: Two arrested after confrontation between far-right group and Halifax Against Hate

According to Margaret McKee, a business ethics instructor and associate professor at Saint Mary’s University, establishing and upholding company beliefs is part of social corporate responsibility.

She couldn’t comment on whether Good Robot made the correct decision in this instance, but said small and medium enterprises may struggle more than large corporations to navigate a world of constant online scrutiny, without the support of hired subject matter experts.

“I think in this social media world, that is a reality that businesses are having to deal with, is that they may make a difficult decision that some of their customers will support, but that others may not,” she explained.

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“And so they just have to have a really good understanding that they are operating on something they can truly stand behind.”

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