A San Francisco restaurant that denied service to three San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers late last week and faced national scrutiny and uproar over their decision during the weekend, apologized on Sunday for their actions.
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On Friday, December 3rd, 3 uniformed SFPD officers sat down at Hilda and Jesse, an all-day breakfast restaurant located right by Washington Square. According to restaurant owners Rachel Sillcocks and Kristina Liedags Compton, some of the staff “felt uncomfortable” with the weapons that the officers were carrying and soon asked all three to leave. They also noted that they could make guests potentially uncomfortable, although none had complained.
While the officers did leave, the incident soon sparked a furor, with national and international press soon reporting on it. SFPD Chief William Scott severely criticized the restaurant for what they did on Saturday, noting officers like them also helped keep businesses safe in the city.
“Community engagement is a core principle of SFPD’s 21st century police reforms, and we are intentional about asking our officers to support local businesses and get to know those they’re sworn to safeguard,” said Chief Scott on Twitter on Saturday. “The San Francisco Police Department stands for safety with respect, even when it means respecting wishes that our officers and I find discouraging and personally disappointing. I believe the vast majority of San Franciscans welcome their police officers, who deserve to know that they are appreciated for the difficult job we ask them to do — in their uniforms — to keep our neighborhoods and businesses safe.”
The restaurant’s Yelp page was also heavily targeted by critics, with many giving the restaurant a low star rating over the incident. More than 500 users review-bombed the site over a period of several hours on Saturday before Yelp had to stop reviews. As of Monday, over 600 new reviews on Yelp and over 100 new reviews on Google Reviews lowered their star ratings to 1 and 1.3 respectfully. Reviews defending the restaurant had failed to counter the wave of negative reviews.
Hilda and Jesse defended itself on Saturday through multiple statements, expressing that the restaurant is a safe space and that it had nothing to do with the SFPD, but rather having firearms in their restaurant.
“Our restaurant is a safe space — particularly for queer and bipoc individuals,” said Sillcocks on Saturday via multiple social media posts. “Furthermore, the fact that they were in uniform with multiple weapons on them made our staff uncomfortable, and potentially other guests, so they were asked to leave. We would happily welcome them off duty, out of uniform, and without their weapons.
“We’re sorry that the decision upset you. We understand your perspective and we hope you’ll consider ours.”
Official response from one of the owners of Hilda and Jesse pic.twitter.com/veshjMekxc
— Stanley Roberts (@StanleyRoberts) December 4, 2021
In another statement, the restaurant added that “This is not a political statement, we did what we thought was best for our staff. It’s not about the fact that we are anti-police. It is about the fact that we do not allow weapons in our restaurant. We were uncomfortable, and we asked them to leave. It has nothing to do that they were officers. It has everything to do that they were carrying guns.”
SFPD sees massive business support for officers following denial of service
Many lawmakers also weighed in during the weekend, with some such as Supervisor Dean Preston noting that armed officers made some feel safer and others less so. However, the SFPD largely had more support over the issue.
“Most people tended to be behind the SFPD on this,” said Elaine Gregory, a San Francisco restaurant owner who represents several restaurants on her block to local business and governmental meetings, to the Globe on Monday. “There were dozens of owners and managers saying their piece during a Discord meeting last night, and nearly all of them were for the SFPD.
“We get why some people may not like them, because of mistrust still coming from the George Floyd protests last year for example. But you don’t need to be flying a thin blue line flag to know that it’s a good thing they are coming around the neighborhood. Not only do you get their business, but you have a police presence that helps keep all of these robberies happening nowadays at bay. It seems so odd to kick them out of a restaurant at a time when there is an active crime wave in the city.”
“The general consensus is is that they made a decision that went against logic and only based it on a few employees not liking officers sworn to protect them having guns.”
“We made a mistake and apologize for the unfortunate incident on Friday when we asked members of the San Francisco Police Department to leave our restaurant,” said Sillcocks and Compton on Instagram on Sunday. “We are grateful to all members of the force who work hard to keep us safe, especially during these challenging times. We hope this will be a teachable moment for us as we repair and continue to build bridges with the SFPD. These are stressful times and we handled this badly.”
Commentators on Monday noted approval of their apology by many, but added that it likely came as a result of increased negative press.
“It’s good that they apologized and are trying to make amends with the SFPD over this, but it seems unlikely that they wouldn’t have apologized if this hadn’t blown up in news,” added Gregory on Monday.
The Hilda and Jesse incidents became only the latest ‘police being denied service’ story in recent years, coming after prior incidents such as a Tempe, Arizona Starbucks refusing service to police officers in 2019.