CHARDON, Ohio — A Chardon restaurant is speaking out and standing up to criticism for hosting a drag brunch for charity.
In partnership with the Community Church of Chesterland, Element 41 announced the event Thursday, and the owner says the phones have been inundated with threats since.
It’s the first time in five years owner Paul Mendolera will invite folks in for a drag show.
“One of my employees always wanted me to do like a drag show night or something like that, drag brunch,” Mendolera said. “My daughter and people in our family, some of our staff, some of our customers, they're all part of the LGBTQ community, and we put a pride flag in the window.”
As supporters of the LGBTQ community, Mendolera said he knows criticism but none like what he’s facing now.
“It’s gotten to the point where it's kind of snowballing,” he said.
The event is on the books for April 1. Mendolera said it didn’t take long for the critics to start dialing the phone.
“They’re calling us pedophiles and it’s getting really crazy where I have to turn my phone off at night,” he said. “It's taking it to the next level where we're having people saying that they're coming to protest, hundred people strong with concealed carry permits, and they want to save the children.”
This won’t be the first protest of its kind in Northeast Ohio. Over the weekend in Wadsworth, two people were arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, and a pepper spray gun was found after a drag story time reading in Memorial Park.
“There were groups that came from all across the state,” Wadsworth Police Chief Dan Chafin explained. “It was at a public park, probably one of the most public forums that you can think of. While people do have the right to protest, people do have the right to speech, there is that line that you can cross where it turns into an actual crime.”
Mendolera said the censure won’t stop him from hosting drag events now or in the future.
“The one thing that we won't shy away from is our ties with the LGBTQ community,” he said.”
3News reached out to the Chardon Police Department and the church but has not heard back.
The Geauga County Sheriff’s Office said they will assist should local police ask for their assistance, and emphasized that any protest should be a peaceful protest.