Community building the cornerstone of Winnipeg’s newest restaurant
RACHEL CARLSON/BEAT REPORTER
The Planit Restaurant and Lounge takes a strong stand on social inclusion, equality and opportunity. And it’s not just talk.
“The Planit is all about diversity, culture, community support and local sustainability,” said owner Ashley Meilleur.
The restaurant features a three-month rotation of local art on its walls, a menu of locally-sourced food and an eclectic mix of local musicians and entertainers, said Meilleur. All communities are also welcomed and supported by anti-discrimination policies.
“We are 100 per cent gay owned and operated and very proud to be a part of the community. We’re not exclusively gay, we’re inclusive for all communities,” she said. “We have a zero discrimination policy in place so that we don’t tolerate anything from patrons or from staff.”
People who violate this policy will be asked to leave, said Meilleur.
“If people can’t handle the space, if they can’t handle gender-neutral washrooms, if they can’t handle the fact that there’s a gentlemen couple holding hands over here and there’s a transgender individual sitting over there then I don’t want them in my space, to be quite honest.”
Official policies that are followed through are a cornerstone of social change, said RRC’s diversity initiatives coordinator Bradley West.
“Intention is required for social justice, equity and inclusion — it doesn’t happen by accident,” said West in an email to The Projector. “When organizations have policies and processes in place to help foster experiences of validity, value and celebration of diversity, it is always a good thing.”
“It’s not just the queer community, we’re inclusive to all communities,” said Meilleur. “So, it’s important to me that everyone in here are judged as equals.”
To that end, Meilleur also extends a helping hand to international students who arestruggling to make a permanent home in Canada.
“My team is very diverse culturally,” she said. “We hire international students and it enables them to be permanent residents of Canada and that’s huge.”
That intention will help students from outside Canada reach their goals, according to Norlan Page, student integration coordinator at RRC.
“Most of our international students at Red River College come with the intention of staying in Canada permanently after graduation, getting a job in their profession and contributing to their communities” Norlan said in an email to The Projector.
International students have a difficult time finding a job because most employers prefer hiring people with work experience in Canada, said Norlan.
“Part-time employment offers international students opportunity to enhance their resumes with Canadian work experience, build networks outside of the classroom and practice the cultural skills they will need to successfully integrate into Canadian workplace after graduation.”
Meilleur hopes to incorporate her other projects into one entity under The Planit umbrella. She also owns The Vinyl Diner and Deliciously Done: A Catering Company. Outside of the kitchen, Meilleur founded The Lending Hand Winnipeg, an organization that helps homeless people.
Meilleur founded The Lending Hand Winnipeg in 2013 to offer homeless people free clothing year round and special gifts during the Christmas season. If she integrates the program under The Planit, Meilleur will be able to offer more than gifts and clothing.
“We have a training program starting in winter, so we’re slowly starting the process right now,” she said. “We’re taking 10 participants that are living on the streets who want to get back on their feet and we’re offering them three months of culinary training for an entry level position in the industry.”