A Ballarat CBD bar and bottle shop has received support from Ballarat and all over the state after being targeted by 'freedom' protesters when they closed for business ahead of Sunday's protests.
With the protests to take place throughout Sunday afternoon in the CBD and Bakery Hill, many businesses chose to close for the afternoon, both to protect their business and because of the lack of trade.
After deciding to close on Sunday, Midtown Cellars and Bar posted the message that they would leave on their door to social media, which read "We will open on Sunday after the tantrum leaves town. Be excellent to each other in the meantime".
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The notice gained traction on social media and in news reports of the event, but it also made the business a target for protesters to vent their frustrations online.
The business was review bombed on Google, receiving many one-star reviews in the space of a few hours on Sunday night, but co-owner Jonny Driver said he had also received threats of violence since the post.
"I didn't expect any kind of attention, let alone backlash from what I thought was just a simple 'I'm not opening until after the protests' kind of thing, but clearly my words were not the best choice for these protesters, but I guess they've got to find somebody to direct their hate at and it was me that day," he said.
"Telling me to watch where I'm going, they're going to get me in the street, they're going to burn the shop down. Stuff that is so vile and hate-filled, I just can't even repeat it. It's really amazing. Just because I didn't open my shop for a couple of hours."
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However, the business was just as quickly bombarded with support following the bad reviews, with many five-stars reviews being posted on Monday and customers calling from all over Victoria to support the business.
Support came from as far as Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Martin Pakula, who tweeted and encouraged people to visit and support the business.
Please everyone, if you go within 50km of Ballarat please visit Midtown Cellars & Bar. They put a sign up to protest the selfish, disruptive anti vax protest & now those ratbags & jerks are trying to wreck them via bad google reviews. I’ll make a special trip for a meal there! pic.twitter.com/Lzi1qKaQOk— Martin Pakula 💉💉 (@MartinPakulaMP) December 5, 2021
"I've met a lot of new people just today, in fact, who have just come in and said, 'we saw that and we want to come in and support you', which has been really nice. I've had people buy gift vouchers from our website from other parts of the state saying 'we don't even want to redeem this, we just want to support the business', I've had people from Shepparton ringing and wanting to book a table for the weekend," Mr Driver said.
"All those things just make you realise that the majority of people are on board with the way things are moving forward and it's about the greater good, it's not about individual rights... I just think that the positivity that has come from all these people, that's the thing that's rubbing off on me most, as much as people are threatening to kill me."
Went to Midtown Cellars today and bought these bad boys. Chatted briefly about the stupid protests yesterday, owner doesn’t buy into any online stuff so was unaware of the reviews on a Google. Wished the team a Merry Xmas and busy Xmas period. #Ballarat 🤘👍 pic.twitter.com/KjsZfT8aVk— Grousedad™ (@grousedad) December 6, 2021
Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney said while people were welcome to protest any cause, Sunday's event caused disruptions to about half of the CBD's businesses and any attempts to affect a particular business were 'poor form'.
"While we respect the right to protest, we also need to respect the right of businesses to have free trade and they haven't been able to do that for much of the year," he said.
"We can all live in a society where we have a difference of views, there's nothing wrong with that, but when you go to actively seek to harm the business through bad reviews and any other action, that's really poor form and it's getting beyond just having an opinion, it's seeking to cause financial harm to someone else."
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