This story has been updated to include an apology issued Sunday by the restaurant’s owners.
A San Francisco restaurant sparked a social media debate Saturday evening when word got out that it had asked three uniformed San Francisco Police officers to leave on Friday because their weapons made employees uncomfortable. After initially defending their decision, the owners on Sunday apologized in an Instagram post, saying they had “made a mistake.”
The initial snub by high-end Union Street brunch spot Hilda and Jesse, which occurred shortly after the three officers were seated, prompted a Twitter response from SFPD Chief William Scott, who wrote: “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.”
The restaurant posted an explanation on its Instagram channel Saturday saying the staff felt uncomfortable at the presence of their multiple weapons and politely asked them to leave shortly after seating them.
“The restaurant is a safe space. The presence of the officers’ weapons in the restaurant made us feel uncomfortable. We respect the San Francisco Police Department and are grateful for the work they do. We welcome them into the restaurant when they are off duty, out of uniform and without their weapons.”
Some commenters were clearly upset at the incident, which comes at a time of mounting concern about public safety and retail crime in particular. They called it discriminatory and pointed out that if there were to be an emergency the officers would be there to help.
“How disrespectful and entitled of the business to treat people who risk their lives to protect us,” wrote one poster. “It’s a bit heartbreaking actually.”
On Sunday, the co-owners of the restaurant, Rachel Sillcocks and Kristina Liedags-Compton, said on Instagram: “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.” The post thanked the police department and added: “We hope this will be a teachable moment for us as we repair and continue to build bridges with the SFPD.”
NBC Bay Area reported that the owners met with officers at SFPD’s central station on Saturday to discuss the incident.
Chief Scott, in his Twitter comments, pointed out that community engagement is a core principle of police reforms and that they actively ask officers to support the local businesses that they are sworn to protect. He concluded by saying that he believes the majority of San Franciscans make officers feel welcome and that those officers deserve to be appreciated for keeping neighborhoods and businesses safe.
Jonathan Weber at The San Francisco Standard contributed to this report.