California restaurant apologizes after sparking backlash for asking police officers to leave

Hilda and Jesse in San Francisco turned away three on-duty officers because their guns made the staff feel "uncomfortable."

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The backlash was swift against a San Francisco restaurant that asked a group of on-duty police officers to leave because their guns made the staff feel “uncomfortable.” They have since apologized.

The incident occurred on Friday when three uniformed officers entered Hilda and Jesse on Union Street. They were then seated at the trendy brunch spot. However, chef and co-owner Rachel Sillcocks told ABC7 News the eatery’s staff and other patrons began to feel increasingly uncomfortable by the presence of the officers’ firearms. 

Kristina Compton preps a plate at Hilda and Jesse, the all-day brunch restaurant in San Francisco whose staff asked three uniformed officers to leave because they were armed. (Photo: Screenshot/hildaandjessesf.com)

“It’s not about the fact that we are anti-police,” she said in an exclusive interview with the outlet. “It is about the fact that we do not allow weapons in our restaurant. We were uncomfortable, and we asked them to leave. It has nothing to do that they were officers. It has everything to do that they were carrying guns.”

Black Bay Area journalist Stanley Roberts was wrongly identified as a Hilda and Jesse owner when he broke the story over the weekend and reposted its proprietors’ claims that the “restaurant is a safe space — particularly for queer and bipod individuals.” A right-wing news outlet called Hot Air had misidentified Roberts as an owner, making him the target of trolls on social media.

Roberts has asked the outlet for a retraction, but his request has not yet been honored. “The people who’ve already read that don’t care, they aren’t looking at the correction,” he told SFist. “They’ve already got their mind made up. They’ve already put me on a bot list.”

Meanwhile, Roberts’ original reporting went viral, and a boycott was encouraged against the restaurant, prompting the online apology.

“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,” Sillcocks and fellow Hilda and Jesse co-owner 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.”

According to The Los Angeles Times, the restaurant was also bombarded with negative reviews on Yelp, prompting the website to temporarily disable the option to post new reviews on its page. 

“I would NEVER give you a penny of my money or a second of my time.  How dare you asked SF police to leave! 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……#backtheblue,” one review read.

Reviews unrelated to the incident praised the food at the popular brunch spot.

“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,” San Francisco Police Chief William Scott wrote Saturday on Twitter. “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.” 

“I believe the vast majority of San Franciscans welcome their police officers,” he added, “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.”

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