There's no missing the highlighter-colored T-shirts worn by employees and supporters of Sharkey's Place in Gastonia. The message on the front is clear. It says "Throw the Bums Out." But the owner of the restaurant says some people who are upset with the shirts are missing the point.
"Other business owners in our area take offense to it and tell us we should be ashamed of ourselves," said Jessica Queen, who works at Sharkey's Place.
Queen and her brother Jason Hughes, who owns the restaurant and bar, say there's nothing anti-homeless about the T-shirts. Instead, it's their last resort to save their business and the downtown culture of Gastonia.
"They think I'm anti-homeless," said Hughes. "That's not true."
Hughes and his family have owned Sharkey's Place for the last two years. Over that time, they say a group of people have taken advantage of their business.
They say the actions of those people has finally hit a boiling point.
"They bathe themselves in our sinks and it's even gotten worse to one of them using the bathroom on our patio," describes Queen.
"They cuss at you, steal cigarette butts, take people's drinks when they're not looking," said Hughes. "We definitely have a problem that we would like to clean up."
That problem is bums, according to Hughes.
"We choose the bum and not homeless because there's a difference," said his sister.
"That ain't right," said Harvey Williams, who calls himself homeless. "That's downright wrong. You don't turn your back on nobody. you don't say 'throw the bums out.'
But Hughes and his restaurant have and they say they need help from leaders in Gastonia.
Tocce Libscomb, who lives in Gastonia, says there's a large population of homeless people in Gastonia. But she says that's not the problem.
Libscomb says Hughes is dealing with people stealing toilet paper and showering in the restaurant's bathrooms.
"I understand where they are coming from," said Libscomb. "I mean I'm shocked but they ain't meaning for the homeless. They mean to keep the bums out who are washing up and stuff in there."
Hughes says he will take this issue to City Council during the next planned meeting. But in the meantime he says he will continue to raise awareness until something is done.
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