Calif. Restaurant Addresses Backlash After Asking Police Officers to Leave: 'We Respect' Cops

The restaurant, Hilda and Jesse, said they initially asked the officers to leave because their staff "felt uncomfortable with the presence of their multiple weapons"

A Northern California restaurant is issuing an apology after they recently asked three armed police officers to leave their establishment due to the presence of their weapons.

The owners of Hilda and Jesse, a breakfast restaurant and neighborhood eatery in San Francisco's North Beach area, called the incident a "teachable moment for us" after receiving backlash for their decision.

"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," co-owners Rachel Sillcocks and Kristina Liedags Compton wrote in a statement on Instagram.

"We are grateful to all members of the force who work hard to keep us safe, especially during these challenging times," they continued. "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."

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment about the apology.

Hilda and Jesse first addressed the incident in an Instagram post on Saturday, explaining that the three armed and uniformed police officers came into their eatery one day earlier.

"Shortly after seating them, our staff felt uncomfortable with the presence of their multiple weapons," the restaurant wrote. "We then politely asked them to leave."

The restaurant went on to explain that while they do "respect" the SFPD and "are grateful for the work they do," Hilda and Jesse is considered a "safe space," so they had to ask the cops to leave.

"We welcome them into the restaurant when they are off duty, out of uniform, and without their weapons," the statement continued.

In the caption of the post, Hilda and Jesse further explained their decision, writing, "We respect the SFPD and what they do to support our community, however, the presence of their weapons in the restaurant made us uncomfortable. This is not a political statement, we did what we thought was best for our staff."

Following the post, Hilda and Jesse received criticism online, as people chose to leave negative reviews on the restaurant's Yelp page.

On Yelp, the restaurant currently has a 1-star rating with 659 reviews.

"I would not support or recommend a San Francisco business that discriminates against the SFPD. Shame on you!!!" reads one Yelp review.

"I would NEVER give you a penny of my money or a second of my time. How dare you ask SF police to leave!" added someone else. "How about buying their meal and having a constructive discussion about life as a police officer and how best to work together to make it a safer world for all."

Currently, on Yelp, the restaurant's page has an "Unusual Activity Alert," which states that they've temporarily disabled the posting of reviews in the wake of "increased public attention."

"This business recently received increased public attention, which often means people come to this page to post their views on the news," the notice reads. "While we don't take a stand one way or the other when it comes to this incident, we've temporarily disabled the posting of content to this page as we work to investigate the content you see here reflects actual consumer experiences rather than the recent events."

It also appears that Hilda and Jesse have disabled all comments on their posts on Instagram.

On Saturday, SFPD Chief William "Bill" Scott spoke out in a lengthy thread on Twitter, calling the incident "discouraging" and "disappointing."

"Community engagement is a core principle of SFPD's 21st-century police reforms, and we are intentional about asking our officers to support local businesses and get to know those they're sworn to safeguard," Scott 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," he continued in a second tweet.

"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," Scott added.

The SFPD later quote-tweeted his thread, simply writing, "Well said @SFPDChief" with an emoji of clapping hands.

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That same day, Sillcocks addressed the incident in an interview with ABC affiliate KGO-TV.

"It's not about the fact that we are anti-police," she told the outlet on Saturday. "It is about the fact that we do not allow weapons in our restaurant."

"We were uncomfortable, and we asked them to leave," she continued. "It has nothing to do with that they were officers. It has everything to do that they were carrying guns."

Sillcocks then added how the officers would be welcomed back at a later date without their weapons.

"We understand how much the police support and protect the community," she told KGO-TV. "We want to again reiterate the fact that this is about guns being in our space, and we don't allow it."

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