Seattle, WA – Three Seattle police officers said they were recently refused service at two different Chocolati café locations during two separate incidents.
The most recent alleged encounter occurred at the Chocolati location on North 45th Street in the Wallingford neighborhood at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, according to The Post Millennial.
According to Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) President Mike Solan, a Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer went into the shop with a student officer who is an immigrant from France, KOMO reported.
The officers waited for the person ahead of them to finish their transaction, then tried to place their order, according to The Post Millennial.
But the worker behind the counter – a white female with green-streaked hair – completely ignored them, the officers told the news outlet.
When they finally got her to acknowledge them, they were stunned by her response.
“No, I won’t serve you,” the employee said, according to The Post Millennial.
The officers immediately left the shop.
When a reporter from The Post Millennial contacted the café to ask about the alleged incident, the worker who answered the phone refused to discuss the issue, according to the paper.
“Is this how you want to spend your time? Getting essential workers in trouble?” the employee retorted, according to The Post Millennial. “Shouldn’t you be spending your time harassing homeless people?”
The reporter ultimately told the worker they would try to reach the manager or owner another time, at which point the employee told them to “go f—k yourself,” according to The Post Millennial.
After the article about the incident was published, another SPD officer contacted the paper to report having a similar experience at a different Chocolati café location on East Green Lake Drive North on a different date, The Post Millennial reported.
“They’re a bit distraught and dismayed,” Solan told KOMO regarding the officers who were turned away on Tuesday. “To be treated in that matter, I think they were taken aback.”
“It’s a bit of a shock, to say the least,” he said.
Chocolati released a statement on Wednesday night saying it “welcomes all members” of the community to its four Seattle cafes.
“We have recently become aware of an incident that occurred with a team member and an officer of the Seattle Police Department who was refused service,” the company said. “Although we do respect this team member’s freedom of speech, the actions in this instance do not represent our views as a company.”
Chocolati did not make any mention of firing or disciplining the employee in their initial statement.
“We are actively working directly with this team member and the local precinct to create a more inviting, inclusive and cohesive community for all,” the statement read. “Discrimination is not a practice that we believe will heal the divide within our city, and we are committed to being a safe and welcoming place for every one of our neighbors.”
Chocolati has been an outspoken supporter of Black Lives Matter on its Facebook page in the past, to include urging people to forgo spending money at any business that wasn’t owned by a black person on “Blackout Day 2020,” the Washington Examiner reported.
After days of backlash, the Chocolati owner Christian Wong posted to Facebook on Friday that there was a mutual agreement that the employee should no longer work for the company.
“I was shocked and disappointed to learn that one of our employees had refused to serve a Seattle Police Department officer at one of our cafes,” Wong’s Statement said. “We work to advance diversity and inclusion at our business, and for our team members to follow their passions and to be engaged in the critical issues we face as a city, and a nation. However, our team members cannot decide which customers to serve based on their own personal political beliefs. This simply is not an acceptable practice at our business.”
“That is why as soon as I learned of this incident, we worked to understand the facts of what took place, and we spoke directly with the team member involved,” Wong’s statement continued. “We also spoke with the Sergeant of our local SPD precinct. After fully understanding the facts of this incident, we came to the mutual conclusion that it was in the best interest of both parties to part ways with the team member involved in this incident. We also continue to communicate with our employees about our values and how we serve our customers to ensure an incident like this does not happen again. We will do better.”
“I look forward to meeting on Sunday with the SPD officer involved in this incident to personally apologize – just as I would apologize to any customer who was refused service on the basis of an employee’s personal views,” the statement said.
Although most police interactions with the public are positive, Solan said the negative encounters and police defunding have taken their toll.
“I think our mental state is probably at its worst state I’ve ever heard or experienced,” Solan told KOMO. “We’re community servants and I don’t want false narratives to cloud people’s judgments.”
SPD officers quit the force in droves last year, with 194 officers either retiring, quitting, or going to other agencies, the union president said.
The departures are expected to spike even more this year, with as many as 100 separations expected by the end of next month, KOMO reported.
SPD Chief Adrian Diaz has described the “staffing crisis” as being “beyond mitigation,” especially considering Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s willingness to cave to Black Lives Matter by signing off on another 20 percent police budget cut this past December, according to the Washington Examiner.