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Fire Dept. Threatens Restaurant Manager With Arrest For Letting Cops Eat Outside

The Buffalo Grille in Houston has been providing free meals to first responders with the help of a local donor.

Houston, TX – Restaurant employees serving free meals to first responders during the coronavirus pandemic were issued a written warning by the Houston Fire Department (HFD) after a firefighter spotted a group of Houston police officers eating their meals outside the establishment.

The HFD alleged that the business was responsible for making sure the officers do not congregate in the common area patio outside the restaurant, and that failing to do so violated the stay-at-home order, KTRK reported.

The incident occurred at the Buffalo Grille on Bissonnet on April 20.

According to Buffalo Grille President John McAleer, the business has been supporter of first responders since 1984, and had already been giving police, fire, and medical personnel a 50 percent discount prior to the onset of the pandemic.

With the help of a generous local donor, the restaurant has been feeding all first responders for free since April 1, KTRK reported.

But when one of the HFD firefighters stopped by to grab a free meal on April 20, she noticed that a group of city police officers were sitting at a table outside the restaurant, KPRC reported.

The firefighter told the manager that he needed to tell the officers to leave immediately – an order that the manager was unwilling to issue, McAleer said.

The firefighter left the restaurant, but soon returned with a fire marshal, KPRC reported.

“About 15 minutes later, another set of police officers were there and the fire marshal came and asked them to leave and wrote us a notice of violation,” McAleer explained to KTRK.

The violation notice did not involve any fines and it was not a citation.

“We were surprised about it, but it is what it is,” McAleer said. “If we are in violation of it, we’ll take the notice.”

McAleer said he removed the table from the common area outside the restaurant after the notice was issued, KPRC reported.

“Obviously, at first, it throws you for a loop,” he said of the incident. “Nothing surprises me anymore.”

In addition to receiving the notice, the general manager was warned that he would be arrested if the problem continues, KTRK reported.

He was also told that the officers cannot even sit in their patrol vehicles to eat their meals, and that the restaurant is responsible for making sure police aren’t eating out in the parking lot, even though they don’t own that property, McAleer said.

“I believe that’s a little much. I understand rules are rules and just like every restaurant in the City of Houston, we have tried our best to do everything and stay within what seems to be kind of fluctuating guidelines,” McAleer told KTRK.

The violation notice is now posted on the front counter to ensure all customers are aware that they cannot eat their meals outside the restaurant.

“We have asked them not to sit the on adjoining patio, which is a common area, even though that’s not our patio fully. We hope they understand there is zero tolerance even for police officers,” McAleer said. “We don’t want to police any first responders. All we want to do is thank them for doing their part.”

In a statement on Thursday, Houston Fire Department Chief Sam Pena said that the HFD and the HPD have been “working diligently to enforce the spirit of the County’s Stay-Home order,” KTRK reported.

“The primary goal for HFD’s Occupancy Task Force has been to achieve voluntary compliance with the order through information and education,” Chief Pena said. “We have been extremely successful in achieving this goal as was the case in this instance.”

He noted that the Buffalo Grille was not “cited” by the task force.

“The complaint was resolved via notice of violation as required by the County’s Order,” the chief said.

McAleer said that the restaurant will continue to treat Houston firefighters the same way they always have, KTRK reported.

“The way we feel on it is it does not change our respect or support for the Houston Fire Department whatsoever. We’ve been supporters of them since ’84,” he said. “We respect them greatly.”

Holly Matkin - April Fri, 2020


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