Angry Orchard has fired the manager and several employees who harassed a Black couple and wrongly accused them of stealing a $28 tee-shirt from their brewery during their marriage proposal.
The company admitted that the confrontation between a Black doctor and her fiancé was mishandled and they’ve apologized and cleaned house after learning that employees confronted the happy couple in the middle of a marriage proposal.
“We reached out and spoke directly with the guest involved to express our sincerest apology and offered to make it right,” Angry Orchard said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “We badly mishandled the situation and our team overreacted.”
The company said they have fired the manager on duty who allowed security members to confront Cathie-Marie Hamlet and her fiancé and six friends without stepping in.
“We’re extremely embarrassed this happened and have taken the immediate steps to remove the manager who was on-duty from her role and replace members of the security team.”
Angry Orchard now says it will improve practices and train staff with sensitivity training.
“Everyone on our team, from cidermakers to security, [has] additional training in the areas of security awareness and unconscious bias to prevent something like this from happening in the future.”
“We’re deeply sorry that our guests were mistreated. The situation doesn’t reflect our values of respect for all and creating a welcoming environment for all our guests,” the statement concluded.
In an exclusive interview with TheGrio, Hamlet and her fiancé Clyde Jackson said they were supposed to have had a surprising, happy moment at the Angry Orchard brewery, but instead the false accusation ruined it.
“As a Black person in a White environment, you always tend to have a heightened awareness because you know people are going to perceive you differently, and not always in a positive way,” Hamlet said in an email interview with theGrio.
The couple had been together for three years, when Jackson led Hamlet out to a lawn area to propose in front of their loved ones, she didn’t see it coming. But what should have been one of the most beautiful moments of her life, quickly turned ugly as an Angry Orchard security official stormed over to the couple and said to Jackson, “‘I’m sorry sir, but I have to check your back pocket. I was told that you stole a T-shirt from the gift store.’ ”
“I was shocked and bit annoyed, but I brushed it off,” Hamlet said of that initial encounter, determined to focus instead on the man she loved.
But even after Jackson, “emptied all of his pockets, while still trying to keep the ring box hidden,” dismissing the guard to get back to the matter at hand, the overzealous security guard chose to return again “mid-proposal,” and asked her to empty her bags as well.
“The way they relentlessly approached us I think was telling, especially with us knowing we did nothing wrong,” Hamlet recalls.
“I emptied my entire bag in front of her, and since this was the SECOND time she had walked over, I said, ‘I know you’re just doing your job, but I can’t help but wonder if this is because we’re Black. We’re the only Black people here at your establishment.’ “
“Of course, she said that that wasn’t the case,” Hamlet continued.
But after soon the couple successfully finished the proposal and their guests started cheering in celebration, security came back over to harass them and this time shouted out, “Call the police!”
“I have never been so humiliated in my life, myself and some of my friends left Angry Orchard in tears,” Hamlet added. “On what was supposed to be one of the best days of my life, I was chased out of Angry Orchard by security who followed us all the way to the parking lot.”