A San Francisco restaurant asked a group of on-duty police officers to leave the eatery last week because their guns made the staff feel “uncomfortable,” and the backlash was swift.
Although the owners of the restaurant have since apologized, the incident on Friday sparked harsh criticism on social media against Hilda and Jesse, a Bay Area establishment that serves buttermilk pancakes, caviar with rolled omelets and sparkling wines.
“We made a mistake and apologize for the unfortunate incident Friday when we asked members of the San Francisco Police Department to leave our restaurant,” co-owners Rachel Sillcocks and Kristina Liedags Compton wrote Sunday in an Instagram post. “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.”
It took three days for the restaurant to apologize for turning away the officers. The day after the incident, owners took to Instagram to call Hilda and Jesse a “safe space.” Sillcocks told KGO-TV that Hilda and Jesse is not an anti-police business, but staff were concerned about the officers’ guns.
“It is about the fact that we do not allow weapons in our restaurant. We were uncomfortable and so we politely asked them to leave,” Sillcocks said in the interview Saturday. “It has nothing to do with the fact that they were officers and everything to do with the fact that they were carrying guns.”
Representatives from Hilda and Jesse did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.
San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said in a statement that officers are encouraged to support and know local businesses in their community.
“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,” Scott said. “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.”
Calls to boycott Hilda and Jesse and low ratings flooded online reviews for the restaurant over the weekend. The restaurant’s score on the online review site Yelp dropped to just one star. Yelp temporarily disabled the option to post new reviews to the page for what it called unusual activity. A spokesperson said the business had received more than 1,600 reviews since Friday.
“When a business gains public attention, consumers often come to Yelp to express their views on the news. These reviews can artificially inflate or deflate a business’s star rating,” Yelp said in a statement. “As part of our Consumer Alerts program, if there’s a surge in review volume sparked by media attention, we may publish an Unusual Activity Alert and temporarily disable the ability to post reviews, even in situations where we might agree with the views expressed in some reviews.”