A man was pepper-sprayed in a Peet's Coffee in Downtown San Francisco Thursday afternoon, according to staff. The store manager evacuated the business around 12:40 p.m. and closed the Peet's branch for the rest of the day.
A Peet's spokesperson said one customer was mocking another, and then one of the customers attacked the other customer with pepper spray. The incident escalated as other customers became aware, and both the sprayer and victim then fled the store.
A Peet's employee said the incident happened very quickly and escalated when the pepper spray was used by the customer while they were on the second floor. The employee asked not to be named as they are not authorized to speak with the press.
A witness who was trying to get coffee said both men came outside of the Peet’s to continue their argument before police officers came to break it up when an ambulance arrived. The witness asked not to be named as they work for the City of San Francisco and are not authorized to speak with the press.
"I come to this location twice a day, every day, for my coffee. This place is quiet and nice,” he said. “It was about 45 minutes before everyone left.
"The workers are trying to make money. They work hard. Now, they lose their customers, and some have to go home," he said, adding that the aroma of pepper spray could be smelled from the entrance.
“The two [customers] were upstairs when one customer got in the face of another customer, and they pepper-sprayed them,” the employee said from behind the glass doors.
“The store will be closed for the rest of the day and reopen on Friday for normal business hours,” he said.
A man was filmed sitting outside the Peet's at 773 Market St., apparently after the altercation, according to a video posted by Darren Stallcup, who regularly tweets about the Tenderloin and Downtown SF.
The man was shirtless and appeared to be in pain, squinting his eyes and groaning as he spoke to police officers.
At the Men's Wearhouse store nearby, a staffer told The Standard a police officer came into the store and said someone had been pepper-sprayed outside. The San Francisco Police Department confirmed the incident.
The man pepper-sprayed at the coffee shop appeared to be homeless or unhoused, according to a Peet's spokesperson. The customer who pepper-sprayed the other man called the store back later on Thursday to apologize for the attack, the spokesperson said.
"Normally, we would spend all our time training people on how to make the perfect espresso. We carve out time to make certain that there are safety drills as well," the Peet's spokesperson said, referring to the safety and business challenges facing the now-shuttered Old Navy this year.
The incident comes as San Francisco's homeless have been targeted by numerous pepper- or bear spray-attacks in recent years.
A homeless man was recently accused of bludgeoning a former San Francisco city official in the upscale Marina District in May, but his defense attorney said there have been nine reported bear- or pepper-spray incidents against homeless people in the Marina since 2021. The case continues in court.
Art gallery owner Collier Gwin was seen in a January viral video spraying a homeless woman outside Foster-Gwin Art & Antiques in the city’s Financial District. The attack drew attention to the issue of assaults against vulnerable unhoused San Francisco residents and tensions between business owners and the city’s homeless population. Gwin will complete 35 hours of community service as a result of a pretrial diversion program.
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