BREASTGATE: Goonellabah cafe owner says he was "set up"
WEDNESDAY 5.30PM: THE owner of a Goonellabah café accused of making demeaning remarks about a breastfeeding mother claims he is the victim of an intentional smear campaign.
Cognito Café's Darren Currie said a disgruntled staff member had planned the event last Friday to provoke and embarrass him.
"I'm not hiding the fact I did make the comments, and I apologise about that, but I do believe I am the victim of a smear campaign," he said.
The mum at the centre of the incident, 22-year-old Courtney Betterridge, said she had considered visiting the café to openly breastfeed - which is a legal right - prior to the incident.
Two days before the event, she uploaded a post on Facebook inviting "breastfeeding mums of the Northern Rivers" for "a little café feeding on Friday morning".
"We joked about making him meet up with breastfeeding mothers… because we knew that he was uncomfortable with it," she told the Star.
"Because I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, and he had made (negative) comments about one of my (breastfeeding) friends… it might be six months ago."
"He also made (negative) comments about a mother that was there the Wednesday before I was."
But the group café feeding never eventuated, and instead Ms Betterridge had breakfast with her 13-month old daughter Athea and Athea's father last Friday morning.
She said she had gone to the café that day to say goodbye to her sister Regina who was working her final shift at the café before moving to Sydney.
She said the trio were probably there for an hour having coffee and breakfast before her daughter became hungry.
She said Mr Currie wasn't there at the time but arrived a few moments after she started breastfeeding Athea, and "cringed" as he walked past.
"He walked past and… (then) made rude comments about breastfeeders to his staff members and turned around and walked back out of his café," she said.
She has since penned a Facebook post about the event which has since sparked a torrent of negative reviews about the café on the business's Facebook page.
Mr Currie said he had "never commented about a breastfeeding mother at all in the past", and "no one was kicked out; she was never told to leave".
"I never even spoke to her," he said.
"A lot of the negative comments (on Facebook) have come from people not getting the full story."
He said he had even received phone threats since the incident and it was being blown out of proportion.
"My only comment is they should use discretion."
WEDNESDAY 10.45AM: READERS of The Northern Star have sounded off on Facebook, surrounding the issue of breastfeeding.
The owner of a Goonellabah's Cognito café, Darren Currie, has copped a storm of social media rage over alleged negative comments made about a mother who breastfed her baby in his café.
Our readers took to Facebook to share their views:
Ally Rice-Finlayson said: "I seriously can't believe we are still having these conversations. What other option is there if a mother is in public? If you breastfeed your baby, you have to, more often than not, use your breast. This really is the best example of a first world problem. Be thankful that the child has access to food, and that you live in a place where families can go out to a cafe without having to worry about anything more alarming that possibly seeing a nipple here or there."
Debra Tracey added: "There is no mother's room at that shopping centre!! What else could mum do? Breastfeeding is so natural."
Kashina Crabbe said: "He's going to get boycotted. Karma. Discretion is obvious, stop highlighting the word discretion, as if this woman had her tits out doing a tassel dance. Discretion basically means no tassels. Just don't look. Eyeball direction discretion."
Rebecca Arnica added: "I'm not quite sure what being discreet has to do with it? To feed a baby from the centre of your breast one must expose a certain amount of skin. Let's not make it more difficult for the tired mother."
Peter French said: "So much for the Northern Rivers being a place of acceptance and enjoying that alternative and free comfortable lifestyle without being hassled by doing something natural."
Hailey Matthews said: "It's really sad when people don't want to go out because there scared of what people are going to think of them breastfeeding wake up..."
Dan Riley added: "Obviously whoever commented negatively wasn't breastfed as a kid."
However others were of a different view:
Catherine Pawsey Field said they though breastfeeding mothers "should be discreet, ie not 'flaunt', but should be able to stay at their table etc to do it".
Dani Lavis said: "Sorry but some women need to chill out!!! Everyone is OTT. I don't give a rats if women breastfeed. You will find most people think the same. It's the mums themselves that make it a big deal. To me this comment was one I wouldn't have thought twice about if I heard it but someone felt the need to blow it way up over hearing about this topic."
Chris Fox said: "So the cafe owner may have made a comment to his staff inappropriate or not it is his premises not yours. The general rule of thumb would be from my opinion yes your right to breast feed is your right true however I can't walk into a premises and think it's acceptable for my testicles to be hanging out of my shorts because I think its ok not to wear underwear so is the same that a woman seeking the right to breast feed should show consideration for other patrons by using a piece of material. As to the comment about the owner looking down at breasts if I was there I would have brought my coffee cup to you and said may I be next. It's time to stop this political correctness crap."
Dell Isdale said this: "Tits are tits. Boys will look at them...even if a baby is sucking on them. So if the mother doesn't mind the men looking, and if the husbands don't other men looking, and the wife's of the men looking don't mind, and no one minds that children are looking...well what's the issue? Oh and if you think saying that men and children shouldn't look...well it's their right to look. Can't take their rights away. If you don't like it - put you tits away in public or be discrete. Modesty is respectful - being respectful of using your manners. But the choice is up to the individual."
Jackie Hughes said: "I am a breastfeeding mum, but I cover up in public. I don't particularly want people looking at my boobs anyway."
Katie Crosby said: "This situation was totally blown out of proportion. If the customer felt put off by a breast feeding mother, then they have a choice to have their coffee elsewhere! I'm not entirely offended by the cafe owners remark, more so the ignorance of others. I don't believe in targeting and publicly slandering people through social media. Saying that the cafe manager had the issue is incorrect. It was the customer! That was not necessary. That will now severely and directly affect this persons business which will probably affect his family at home."
Tara Lee Buggy added: "I just want to say, we are at this coffee regularly usually every Thursday. I breastfeed my baby there often uncovered. The owner has never said a thing to me nor made a comment (that I know of) in fact he went out of his way while having lunch to entertain a friends and my 3 year olds. We found him very accommodating and have never had an issue."
Samantha Maree said: "Honestly wow. I'm currently breastfeeding my 16 month old but f**k are you all willing to ruin the man's business over this? He stuck up for the mother at the end of the day. I bf everywhere but I'm also aware of my surroundings. The world's not owed to us because we're breast feeding. Everyone just move on and let the man be."
What do you think? Head to The Northern Star's Facebook page to have your say.
Cognito Café owner Darren Currie insists he is the victim of an out-of-context social media lynching and reports about the incident are overblown - but several female customers have vowed never to return.
Mr Currie said last Friday morning an elderly customer alerted him to the breastfeeding mum and "asked me could I something about it because it was off-putting for them".
"I said 'I can't do anything about it because they've got their rights to breastfeed'," he recalled.
"She basically said 'there's nothing you can do?' (and) I said (no) 'there's nothing I can do'."
It was a few moments later when Mr Currie said he made the comment that has since fired up Facebook.
"I walked into the kitchen and said 'some customers should have a bit more discretion'," he said.
"A customer heard me say that, and all of a sudden it's blown up, I've had all these sickening things from Facebook."
But the breastfeeding mum, Court Betterridge, had a different take on the comments, which she posted on Facebook.
Ms Betterridge claimed on a Facebook thread that Mr Currie suggested she was "raised in the gutter with no ethics" and the words were "overheard by patrons" while he was speaking to his staff.
Mr Currie admitted he made a general comment about "ethics" but said he directed it generally, not to anyone one in particular.
On the same thread where Ms Betteridge posted her complaint, Mr Currie apologised, saying the "comment of mine was wrong and I said it tongue in cheek".
A barrage of negative reviews have been posted to the cafe's Facebook page referring to the incident in question.
Liz Gardner gave the café "one star", saying "after the way my friend was treated for breastfeeding her child I would never go there".
Karische Kerr said she wouldn't be back, saying "what type of owner looks down on breastfeeding mothers…. Very disgusted in the way the owner acted".
Christie Monk said she would give the business a "0 if you would let me" for "disrespecting a completely natural thing".
Skye Snook said it was a "shame" that she wouldn't be returning to the café but the inappropriate comments made by the owner were "gutless and rude".
Other "reviews" were posted by people who have never been to the café, and some have become personal attacks on Mr Currie and his behaviour.
Mr Currie said some of the comments had prompted him to notify police and prepare potential defamation proceedings.
He said he didn't have a problem with people breastfeeding.
"It was taken out of context, I apologise for any damage I've caused… breastfeeding mothers are welcome in the café," he said.
"At the end of the day… I made a tongue in cheek comment that I'm disappointed in myself about and I've apologised about… but it's just blown out of proportion."
One female reviewer also came to Mr Currie's defence.
Bianca Xuereb said: "Breastfeeding is natural BUT cover up, I breastfeed my baby and don't need to show the world I can, it's called a shawl, it's being considerate of others… breast is best, just think of others too."
Ms Xuereb also admonished those who had posted negative reviews about the incident without being there, urging the owner to start a new page and "how dare these keyboard warriors harm someone's business".
The social media uproar over Mr Currie's comments echoes a similar response to Channel Seven's Sunrise host David Koch's comments in 2013 that women should be more "discreet and modest" when breastfeeding in public.
That led to a "nurse-in" protest outside Sunrise's Sydney studios which ignited a national debate on public breastfeeding.