ELMHURST, Ill. (CBS) — A business owner in a suburban Chicago city is making things political – and he is not afraid to explain why. He told WBBM-TV’s Jeremy Ross it is his right to do what some people say is just plain wrong.
Shaun Thompson, owner of the Elmhurst Cigar House, doesn’t mince his words when it comes to politics these days. He says if you voted for Joe Biden for president, he does not want your business, your cash, or your presence in his store – and he is prepared to suffer the consequences as a form of protest.
In downtown Elmhurst, there are many signs. But the one that was put up weeks ago at the Cigar House is starting to draw more attention. It’s a balloon-shaped orange paper sign with the handwritten words, “Biden Voters Keep Out!” The sign is quite shocking for many.
“I find it really, truly appalling – pretty much that I would like to say out and not go in,” one woman told WBBM. “I find it horrible.”
“I find that offensive,” another woman added. “I’m a Trump supporter, so if somebody put ‘Trump supporters stay out,’ I wouldn’t, you know, find that a very kind thing to put out.”
Speaking to us from South Florida, Thompson defended his decision to post the sign and keep Biden supporters out.
“I don’t want them anyway. I don’t want them in there, and I don’t to have to pretend that they have respect for me,” Thompson said, “so I’m going to show disrespect for them.”
Thompson said his stance is no joke. “Don’t come in my store. Tell your friends,” he said. “I don’t want you in the store. I don’t want you near me.”
Thompson has owned the Elmhurst Cigar House for about six years. But following the hotly-contested November presidential election, he decided a sign of protest was appropriate. And he said it was “absolutely” an issue of his own freedom of speech.
“There’s nothing in any antidiscrimination law – federal, state or local, that prohibits you from expressing your political beliefs – which is obviously what this store is doing,” said WBBM-TV Legal Analyst Irv Miller.
Miller said the sign is a form of protected speech for the private business owner.
“If that’s the way the law works, fine, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to support that,” a witness told WBBM.
Miller said Thompson and his store cannot suffer any legal consequences for the sign, but there could be business consequences. “Business consequences – is he doing this to enhance his bottom line, or in the long run, would this really ruin his bottom line,” he said.
“He’s doing a pretty a risky thing, because it’s split down the middle in Elmhurst,” one resident told WBBM.
“I think it would not bode well for the business,” another added.
Thompson said due to COVID shutdowns, he has been at zero sales before. So if there is backlash, he said, he is ready – and will simply smoke the unsold cigars himself.
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