Controversial sign upsets area LGBT community

By Melanie Ruberti

April 11, 2014

Signs involving a gay slur greeted customers at the PCA Food store on Hogansville Road earlier this week.
According to customer, Amy Simpson, the signs were plastered all over the door to the store, and the counter. The store manager compared people who wear baggy pants to a negative name for people who are homosexual. It insinuates that if you wear baggy pants, you are gay. Simpson, who is homosexual, was offended when she saw it and immediately confronted the store manager.
“I said, 'Why do you have this in your store? Do you not realize it's a homosexual slur?' I've never encountered anything like that,” Simpson said.
What made matters worse, Simpson said, the three children whom she is helping to raise with her partner, also saw the signs inside the store.
“How do you explain that?” she asked. ” I couldn't believe it. I was angry, enraged, and sad. It's emotional and I don't understand it. It's prejudice.”
But PCA Store Manager, Anil Patel, said he's not against the homosexual community.
“That's their personal life,” he said. ” But if you're coming to my store, pull your pants up. It's inappropriate. It's not just gay people, it's for anybody who comes in my store. Have some respect. I always treat my customers courteously, respectfully, and with love.”
The controversial signs were not posted on Friday afternoon. Patel said his dad took them down because of the unwanted attention they were bringing to the store. But Patel said he sees nothing wrong with the sign, or the way it was worded.
“Gay is not a color, a race, a religion. It's who you are. I'm not against it,” said Patel. “I'm not saying 'don't come into the store. I'll still serve you.' But when I put that sign up, people had a choice. Either don't come in to the store, or pull your pants up.”
Patel said the controversial signs are his “freedom of speech.” He said he asked many customers about them, and according to him, they liked it.
Simpson is not amused and planned on contacting the NAACP and the LGBT office in Atlanta about it.
“I want it stopped,” she said. “I understand he owns a business, but it can be hurt too. Not physically, but through a boycott. That's my main goal.”
PCA, which ironically stands for “Please Come Again,” has new signs up now. They say, “No shoes, no shirt, no service, pants up.” But Patel said he's not opposed to putting the old signs up, with customer approval, and has plans to make bumper stickers using the homophobic slogan. He called the controversial signs a “wake up call” and hopes other businesses in the area will adopt the same motto.
“It sends a straight message. It's clear,” he said.
“To call someone that is as offensive as calling an African American the 'N' word,” Simpson stated. “I just want to walk in a place where I don't have to see that kind of stuff, right at the door handle where my children can see it too. This is 2014. When does it stop?”