Friday, January 4, 2013

Hillbilly Heaven -- a politically incorrect place to eat

Hamilton (Ontario, Canada -- not Bermuda) is (or was) a steel town. Not beautiful, definitely blue collar, the kind of place where people are expected to turn in an honest day's work for an honest buck. People who don't work aren't welcome. Neither are people who "aren't from around here".

This is particularly the case at a restaurant called Hillbilly Heaven. As the name suggests, it's pretty red in the neck. The owner, Cameron Bailey, describes it as "no place for the timid". Which is why he's the owner, because timid he ain't.

Bailey's good ole boy attitude has been noticed. He's not one to hide his biases or suffer fools gladly. Last year he caused a stir when he posted a big sign by the cash register that said halal meat, rice, kabobs, shawarmas and other items are "things we don't have and never will".

On the door was another notice proclaiming, "To better serve you, our staff speaks ENGLISH."

Mr. Bailey told the Toronto Star he makes no apologies for his attitude. "This is my own country — we're going to demand a few things around here. I don't really care. Don't try to intimidate me. We serve what we serve. Don't yell at me and expect me to change that. Call me a racist all you like; it's not going to change."

Hillbilly Heaven's owner attracted the attention of the Red Star this week when he posted an ad on Kijiji asking for servers and counter staff at the downtown location. Nothing unusual about a restaurant looking for help, but Bailey's ad included a message for dependents of the Canadian, Ontario and Hamilton governments.

"We know that Ontario's overly generous unemployment and OW [Ontario Works] systems make it seem pointless to accept a job but we want people that are better than that," Bailey wrote. "It's that simple."

The ad went on to tell job-seekers not to e-mail a résumé. Such e-mails, Bailey wrote, will be deleted. And don't call, because he won't talk to you. No, you have to do it the old-fashioned way, showing up in person prepared for a 20-minute interview.

Why so strict? Because, the ad says, "We call to schedule interviews. Half of you don't even bother to return the call. We schedule interviews and 75% of you don't bother to show up for the interview. We offer the job and 30% of you accept it and then don't bother to show up for work on the first day."

Judging from the response so far, Mr. Bailey's no-bullshit approach appears to be working. The Kijiji ad has had hundreds of hits, and as of Friday 16 people actually showed up. One was hired on the spot. That person had a wife and two kids, "so that part is a good news story," said Bailey.

For Walt's readers in the Hamilton area who may be thinking of going out for a good (North) American bite to eat, Hillbilly Heaven (647 Upper James St.) serves ribs, sandwiches and pulled pork. You can probably get huevos too because Mr. Bailey sounds like he's got big ones.

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