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Alleged assault and death threats stun expat community, forcing new restaurant to shut down

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Five weeks after it opened, a restaurant on Paseo de Montejo was shut down by authorities following a violent confrontation that was captured on an audio file. Above, a menu board was left on the sidewalk Tuesday afternoon. Photo: Yucatán Magazine

The expat community was left mortified and a new restaurant was shut down by authorities after a Canadian business owner was accused of physically assaulting and threatening to kill a teenage girl at a neighboring retail store.

An audio file, lasting more than two minutes and shared widely on social media, apparently documents a confrontation that escalated badly. The business owner entered the gallery repeatedly screaming that she would kill the young woman and bury her body, the profanity-laden audio clip indicates.

No details have been substantiated, including the age of the victim or if she was injured, but local media reported that a criminal complaint was filed against the restaurant owner. Death threats are a crime under the Yucatán penal code.

Neither police, the attorney general’s office nor the restaurant owner offered comment, but the public’s reaction on Facebook was fierce and widespread.

“If you don’t respect my culture, the town and my people, then go away,” reads a sign protesting allegations made against the Canadian owner of a restaurant in Mérida. The sign on the left makes reference to white privilege. Photo: Rompecabeza

U.S. and Canadian residents in Yucatán, a group eager to avoid the “ugly American” stereotype, filled social media with repudiations. The audio clip also provoked some anti-foreigner sentiment when comments took on a political angle.

Local media, which have offered conflicting accounts of what transpired, report a feud started when the retail store objected to some of the restaurant’s tables blocking their window and entrance.

The restaurant, called Harlow, opened in mid-February in time for a rebound of tourists on the Paseo de Montejo. It was often packed with people, particularly when the Biciruta community bike ride restarted on March 21. By the Biciruta’s second week, after a day of negative blowback online, the restaurant was noticeably more subdued.

By Tuesday afternoon, state and federal civil projection authorities, as well as the Yucatan Health Secretariat, placed stickers on the restaurant’s front door announcing its closure. The action took place an hour ahead of a planned “anti-colonialist demonstration” which attracted a few protestors.

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