San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gay rights activists protest 102-year-old Costa Rican restaurant

A century-old restaurant faced a new movement in Costa Rica on Saturday evening.

Close to 200 protesters marched to the downtown San José restaurant Chelles to demonstrate against ownership for throwing out a lesbian couple. On March 14 at 1 a.m., 10 friends arrived at the 102-year-old Chelles diner. When two women in the group kissed, management cancelled their orders and forced the couple to leave, said Paulina Torres, one of the women removed from the restaurant.

An organization called Beso Diverso (Diverse Kiss) set up a protest Saturday evening in front of the restaurant. Gay rights activists shouted, “Ser diferente no es indecente” (“To be different is not indecent”), and signs told Chelles to “Kiss Customers Goodbye.”

“We try to make a big event every time a local restaurant, bar or any kind of place discriminates against people because of their sexual orientation,” said Marisa Victoria, a coordinator for Beso Diverso.

This was the 11th Beso Diverso in less than four years, Victoria said. She said turnout was less than past protests due to the event occurring on a Saturday afternoon. Beso Diverso leaders had asked Chelles for an apology prior to the protest. Instead Marjorie Blanco, of Chelles, told media that the couple was sinning.

chelles protest 2

Protesting Chelles.

Matt Levin

“What they did is extremely forbidden, this is a decent place,” Blanco said. Apologies for nothing, if I see a pair of women kissing each other, then I’m telling them to go elsewhere. The Lord rebukes the devil.”

That statement was mocked by those outside. Torres helped lead the chants. Inside Chelles, employees stood around, watching the clamor outside. Only a couple of customers ate at the restaurant during the hour-long demonstration.

Gov’t Protest Coming

Victoria said activists are planning a protest at the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday morning, at 9 a.m., before lawmakers elect a new legislative president.

A pending pact between the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) and the Access Without Exclusion Party (PASE) could thwart legislation furthering gay and women’s rights, activists said. Oscar López, president of PASE, said in order to leave the legislative opposition and seek an alliance with the PLN, the government must remove topics like in vitro fertilization and homosexual rights from its legislative agenda.

López told Radio Reloj last week that gay marriage and adoption are not “human rights.” The Access Without Exclusion Party also maintains views that are anti-in vitro fertilization and anti-abortion.

Said Victoria: “They hate everybody without exclusion.”

Famous restaurant kicks out kissing couple

Did the restaurant have the rights to throw the women out for kissing?

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