Happy Birthday?

I have known for months I wanted to write a blog but have been stuck on how to start.

Then, I celebrated my 40th Birthday in Blue Mountain Village with my best friends and we were asked to provide a credit card before placing our meal order in case we left without paying. For real, I cannot make this stuff up; shit like this happens on the regular. This is what it’s like to be Black and live in Simcoe County. Of course, I was furious, but the reality is I had to brush it off and continue with the night, celebrate anyways.

To make matters worse, when we asked the tables around us if they had to provide credit cards, they did not. You could see that they were mortified for us, one table of about 10 guys even asked their server if they needed to provide a credit card, his response was ‘Nah, don’t worry about it!’

We did what you are supposed to do: ask for the manager. Except that when he came over, he caused a scene just short of yelling at us, told us to pay for our drinks, and leave—all because we wanted an explanation as to why we were the only table that had to provide a credit card. We waited almost 30 minutes to get in and they were the only restaurant that we could find serving food at that hour so as much as they did not deserve our business, we had no other choice.

Yes, the obvious choice was to leave, it felt demoralizing and infuriating at the same time, but this is part of lived Black experience, sometimes you just have to keep it moving. We got nowhere with the manager, he was rude, disrespectful, and insisted we had to leave a credit card. Believe me, as the only Black people in the restaurant we kept it real nice, we were not trying to stand out any more than we already did.

I will never go back to MJ Byrnes Irish Pub. Happy Birthday to me!

By Natasha Shakespeare

Activist. Community Organizer. Advocate. Mom. Champion.


  1. Wow, I so would have stood up for you and made a scene. So wrong on so many levels!!!!

  2. That’s horrible, so sorry you guys had to go thru that. We also had a bad experience at blue mountain back in 2017. I wrote a complaint email afterwards, then a follow up email… never ever got a response

  3. So sorry you had to experience this kind
    Of crap.they should lose their license and face high fines not only for being so wrong but also so stupid .you just shows them when you didn’t leave you were better than they were in every way.

  4. I’m a grade 8 teacher in Simcoe County who uses real stories for our Social Justice and Equity class work. I will use your story this year because it is an example of what happens in our community.

  5. My heart aches. I cannot imagine being judged solely based on my appearance. You are quite extraordinary Ms. Shakespeare.

  6. Here at MJ Byrne’s Irish Pub we very much value diversity and pride ourselves on being an inclusive space for ALL guests not least for our own workforce.

    Over the years we have helped literally dozens of young immigrants hailing from all walks of life to establish themselves in Canada. From India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Morocco, South Africa, Thailand and the Caribbean, as well as indigenous North and South Americans, our alumni of past employees is as diverse and inclusive as it could possibly be and even today more than half of our workforce are from overseas.

    Our tab policy which has been in place for almost 20 years, is very typical in the bar industry. After 9pm our venue becomes more of a busy bar environment than a typical restaurant, and just like any busy bar we require tabs to be secured with a credit card on those busy evenings. Blue Mountain Village tends to lend itself to patrons hopping from bar to bar, so we always ask patrons to secure their tabs with credit cards when they arrive after 9pm, regardless of whether they order food or drink.

    Like all restaurants and bars, we have experienced very challenging times over the past eighteen months and working hard to meet our customers’ needs and to listen to their concerns is critical for us. That is why we took the time to sit with your group, we explained in detail why the tab policy applied and possibly not the group nearby since they were seated earlier, then we thanked you for your feedback and input by giving you a round of drinks on us to get your celebration back on track.

    With the benefit of being part of a very diverse team, who are unfortunately all too familiar with being profiled ourselves, any of our staff would be outraged like you if this suggestion had merit. It simply is not the case that you were the only black people in our venue, any regular visitor to the Blue Mountain village and/or our venue can attest to this; it is simply not the case that you were the only guests asked to secure an open tab with a credit card, this is a well-established industry practice which we explained in detail to your group; and I’m sure you can agree that a disrespectful manager would not take the time to explain the details of the policy and then buy your group a round of drinks.

    We genuinely regret that your interpretation of what is really a policy to deal with a busy nightlife environment ended up upsetting you. We will continue to listen and engage with our customers and we will always welcome guests from ALL walks of life.

    1. there are multiples issues with this half-assed, virtue signaling, ‘all lives matter’, havent-done-the-work, ‘but I have black staff’, performative pathetic apology.
      talk about insult to injury. There is the intention and there is the impact. The impact, you apologize for. And you, as a public representative of MJ BYRNES PUB, did not achieve that in any way I can see. And that smug, entitled, pissing contest attitude, no one likes it Colm. Knock it off Colm. we don’t believe you, you need more people.

      1. Wow….are you so sure of the actual facts rather than someone’s perception that you can attack Colm for his attempt to put some more facts out there from a different view of the original poster. Such hatred you express to someone you don’t know. Such assumptions you and everyone else on this blog are posting. Where is your compassion and humanity in general? How is such vitriolic mud slinging going to help the situation and other similar situations? How do you hope to change people’s minds, their behaviour, etc. Not with your bad attitude.

        1. now we call for compassion and humanity? now it’s about ‘the bar’ and how hurt ‘the bar’ is? classic. any bar manager with any training would see that 4 women celebrating a 40th are not pub hopping (pandemic?) or dine and dashing. if they took issue and showed discomfort with the ‘policy’, a professional would prioritize the guest and make an exception. but no. and THAT is why it was a problem. stop whining. apologize properly and save some face. it’s no ones job to teach you how to care about people. the response… it was awful and insulting. ‘the suggestion has no merit’ – how do you say that to a guest? zero accountability. she wasn’t ASKING if it were true or not, she took time from her day to share an experience. WHY WOULD SOMEONE MAKE IT UP? people don’t have that kind of time… one would be pretty pissed off to make the time to recap an upsetting experience, attaching their real name and photo. i DO know why a business would bend over backwards to make the complainant look ‘bad’… it aligns with this guests original complaint, with the poor reviews, with the hundreds of comments who say they too have had run-ins with smug, entitled, rude management at MJ BYRNES IRISH PUB. stay quiet and do better. i hope it’s uncomfortable enough for you to grow.

  7. Tash, I’m so sorry this happened to you and your friends. Absolutely brutal and unacceptable. Had this happened when I was dining nearby I would have walked out with you.

  8. I am FLOORED by your story! Seriously, no words. What an absolutely disgrace. You should also consider contacting Blue Mountain Village Corporation as reporting the incident to them as well. I am so sorry you had to experience this. Please let us know what we can do to help.

  9. I am really sort that you had to deal with this. Have you considered bringing a Human Rights complaint against the restaurant for this? Sometimes the only thing that gets through is if you hit them where it hurts – their wallets.

  10. Has anyone here read and considered the information provided by Colm from the restaurant, or are you all just happy to attack and sling mud. I have to say that there seems more than an element of factual truth to what Colm has written, but none of the posters here will consider the possibility that Natasha perhaps got it wrong….that she has chosen to take a negative view of what happened rather than thinking through the actual facts of what happened. I’m not buying her story as written. Perhaps she should think about this birthday night a bit more and perhaps provide an edit, and stop spreading hate, which serves no purpose.

    1. Monica, I take issue with your accusation that Natasha is “spreading hate.” Expressing her view of an experience and her perception of an act is not hateful. That’s very strong language and is contributing to the underlying problem. As a reader, I am open to Colm’s explanation of the situation and I hope that in the future, this experience is a catalyst for change in ‘common practice.’ (that being said, my experience of a bar tab at a bar/restaurant is typically that a credit card is only asked when sitting at the bar.)
      However, I did reach out to the restaurant personally after this blog was published. To date, I, as a interested third-party have received no response. This alone has now confirmed my decision to deny this establishment my business in the future.

      1. Michelle…your understanding that a credit card is asked for ONLY when sitting at the bar is wrong! Perhaps you don’t get out much? And the fact that this restaurant has not responded, well they probably have lots of customers to serve, rather than adding to this negative untruthful blog. Natasha needs to get back on this blog and straighten things up and fill in all of the holes in her story….such as the fact that they arrived AFTER 9pm; that the table she asked re credit card required had been there much before 9pm; that management did come out and speak with her and clearly explained their policy and reasons….AND BTW….what is the problem with being asked for your credit card to hold on a tab???? Restaurant can set their own policies, and you can chose some place else to go. Oh, yes….Natasha also left out that her party was given FREE drinks!!! Sounds terrible to me.
        Enough with bashing a local restaurant that is trying to make a living for itself and its staff during a horrendous pandemic.

  11. This Black Lives Matter ✊🏿 has gone to far now it has come to the point where you can’t act on or speak on anything anymore or it is considered “hate crime” or “racist”
    If a restaurant or bar has a policy in place why is it considered “racist” a policy is in place for a reason, obviously it’s because after certain hours people like to drink in general and you have to have a card for a tab just like pretty much any bar after a certain time. Any person out drinking can get out of hand white black brown or whatever. I can’t believe people use anything as an excuse to get some attention. If you seek attention so much don’t do it by putting down a restaurant you don’t know what they deal with on a day to day basis and to put someone’s job at risk for your own satisfaction is disgusting karma is a bitch. Relax yourself, if you truly weren’t happy you should’ve left. This article should be removed immediately. Completely. Instead of ruining a well known local business.

    1. I totally agree with you. Seems Natasha takes exception to being asked for a credit card….perhaps she doesn’t go out at night and doesn’t know that it’s common practice?? And why does she IMMEDIATELY go to: it’s because I’m black! Give it a rest. It has nothing to do with being black, female, non-binary, or any other such. And what a way she has chosen to start her blog. Obviously looking for clicks and comments…negative stuff always gets more reaction than good stuff. VERY SAD…and I will make a point of going to visit this restaurant and supporting them. Terrible what Natasha has done. It’s wrong on so many fronts.

  12. That is terrible! I was at this pub this summer and the Manager was extremely rude, demanding and unprofessional to a table there. It was a different scenario and it was towards a female of another race.
    Meanwhile I can’t jump to say maybe it’s a race or gender thing.
    I can certainly say that this is not the first time the manager has had appalling behaviour towards their paying customers.

    Sorry Natasha for what you went through and especially on your birthday. The paying upfront as the only table too on it’s own is beyond inappropriate. But the way you described how he spoke to you I know was nothing short of the truth as I’ve seen him speak to another customer like that before. It’s not right. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other similar situations other people have gone through.

    Hope you have a birthday 10x better than this next year!

  13. Dear Natasha…you left out lots of very important information in this new blog you are starting….like the fact that it was AFTER 9pm, and that other table had been there awhile before 9pm. That in fact management came out and sat at your table and explained their policy…which you obviously refused to listen to…..and that you were given complimentary drinks…but instead, you have chosen to post some very ugly accusations to a local business, because you want something sensational to START your blogging career….Why not start with some uplifting and positive, rather than twisting your 40th birthday outing into something negative. Of course you are now getting tons of sympathy posts….lots of comments and clicks which brings attention to your blog, which was the whole point here. I don’t buy your story. Sorry. You should delete this post and start anew, with compassion and love in your heart.

    1. I understand everyone is going through difficult times and compassion is much needed from all of us towards each other. That also includes the manager towards his paying customers. Monica & Wokesha, I understand what you are saying. Meanwhile, personally I’am not going to say it’s a race thing or not as I wasn’t there during Natasha’s experience. However I can definitely say that I have seen the Manager treat other patrons poorly, rude and beyond unprofessional on a different occasion. So I’m not surprised by how Natasha described how the manager spoke to her.

      1. One robin does not Spring make. That is, you claim to have seen ONE unpleasant interaction with the manager and a customer at this location. Do you have ALL of the facts on that interaction? Do you know what preceded what occurred that you saw? How close were you; ie. could you hear clearly every word spoke by each party? What else was going on at the time? Your conclusion that because you saw something ‘unpleasant’ or rude or whatever it was, ergo Natasha’s account MUST be true and accurate is a false assumption.

  14. This unprofessional and discriminatory behaviour needs to stop! IF such a policy is in fact in place, this needs to be communicated to ALL patrons being seated after such time, giving potential customers the opportunity to agree or decline to such policy. This is not “sensitive” times or “BLM propaganda”. This is real life and should not be ignored as is normally the case. The statement released by Colm was an example of “damage control”. Trying to support your stance by pointing out that your workplace is diverse and inclusive, is in itself a very common defence mechanism. Own up, correct it and do better!

  15. So sorry to hear about your ordeal especially during your birthday. That’s so embarrassing that these things still happen. People are always saying that the GTA is diverse and that we are changing. I believe it is still prevalent. Sometimes even behind our backs. I also feel the corporate industry and government puts on a show to prove that they are working towards diversity. I say they are just covering their butts and trying to look good. I hope you are able to push this story out so that the manager can get some how and every employee at the pub receives counselling with respect to racist behaviour.

  16. Monica. Are you an employee at this restaurant? Where you there? You seem awfully defensive. I think your reaction to this blog wound make the better story here. I’d really like to dissect why you are so upset as it seems you did not have a direct experience with this story…very interesting…just saying.

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