A cafe owner claims she fell victim to a “hate campaign” after turning a greasy spoon into a vegan joint. Anna Southwell and her staff have been “abused” dozens of times for not selling bacon and other “traditional foods” since they opened the plant-based cafe in Weston-super-Mare, north Somerset, last June.
The previous resident closed the summer-only business during the pandemic and had previously served items such as hot dogs and burgers, Ms Southwell said.
The 44-year-old – who runs Weston’s other vegan restaurant Loves with her partner Josh Mousley, 32 – decided to speak out after a man visited her at Loves last Thursday.
Anna said: “A man yelled at me as soon as he entered the cafe. He wanted to know what I was doing with the cafe in Grove Park.
“He said he came to tell me ‘what everyone thought’. How it was ‘disgusting’ that we had opened a vegan business and how we had to ‘shut it down’.
The company also employs some “marginalized or vulnerable” employees, such as refugees, autistic adults and those recovering from drug and alcohol problems who often work alone.
“The staff don’t deserve it,” she explained. “We worked really hard to create a vegan business.
“Now when they work in what should be a beautiful location in the park, surrounded by nature, people from the audience come and yell at them for no reason. It’s offensive. It’s harassment and it really affects us negatively. It has to stop now.”
As well as being a pub, Ms Southwell pointed out that she had hosted 12 music events at the nearby bandstand, attended by more than 3,000 people.
She has also been awarded a grant from Sport England to set up walks and talks in the park, something she says highlights the great role Sprout plays in the wider community.
She also rejected his claims that there is no market for vegan food in Weston – insisting the company is not there to preach about veganism.
Ms Southwell also said people complaining that the business is never open are wrong because it is open all year round.
She said, “It seems nonsensical what they are talking about.”
“It feels like a bit of a hate campaign. A preconception about how plant-based food could be.
“They’re trying us out and they haven’t even had a cup of tea here.”
Ms Southwell also said her company is “absolutely” not trying to preach veganism.
She said: “We don’t question anyone else’s decisions. We don’t tell anyone else to live a certain way.
“What we do is run our business the way we want, because we believe it’s the right thing for the future of the planet and people’s health.
“Even if they only eat here once, that’s okay, but my friend said to me, ‘If they can’t find a bacon sandwich in Weston-super-Mare, they’re going wrong somewhere’.
“It’s no problem getting bacon sandwiches in Weston. There are probably 200 places within a mile radius where you can get a bacon sandwich. But we don’t sell them.
“We don’t do it to offend anyone. We do it because we want to make our part of the world a better place.”