OHS Canada Magazine

Toronto Syrian restaurant set to reopen after death threats prompted closure

Staff safety cited in decision to close Soufi’s


TORONTO (CP) — A Syrian restaurant in downtown Toronto that closed after its owners said they received hate messages and death threats is set to reopen Friday following an outpouring of support from community members and other businesses.

The Alsoufi family said its initial decision to shut down the popular restaurant Soufi’s came from “a place of fear” and a desire to put an end to the controversy surrounding the eatery.

But the family reconsidered after seeing how people responded to the closure, Husam Alsoufi told a news conference Thursday.

“The aftermath and public reaction to our decision was beyond what we imagined. We received hundreds of heartfelt messages from people all over Canada offering their support and solidarity,” he said.

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“We do not wish to set a tragic example for future immigrants and refugee business owners as the business that gave in to hate. We want to foster hope and resilience in the face of intimidation and hostility.”

The Alsoufis will be taking a break from running the restaurant, however, leaving it under new management provided by the Middle Eastern chain Paramount Fine Foods “until our family feels healthy and safe again,” he said.

Paramount’s CEO said the Alsoufi family will remain the owners and continue to receive all the profits from the restaurant. All of the staff who lost their jobs when the restaurant was abruptly shuttered this week will also be rehired, Mohamad Fakih said.

Fakih said he hoped there would be no more threats, but that police would be called if necessary. He also did not rule out hiring security as a last resort.

Threats prompted closure

Previously, the owners said they’d had to close after staff began fielding hateful messages and death threats.

Members of the Alsoufi family did not respond to a request for comment from The Canadian Press but issued a social media post spelling out the reasons for the closure.

“As a result of numerous hate messages & death threats we’ve received over the past week, we’ve decided to permanently close our shop,” reads a post on the restaurant’s Instagram account.

“Our decision is made with a heavy heart in effort to maintain our family and staff’s safety.”

The post said the family hopes to share more details once they feel safe enough.

This story has been updated from its original version.

Copyright (c) 2019 The Canadian Press