Some on social media are calling for a boycott of the Texas-based burger chain Whataburger after a plainclothes detective was refused service because he was carrying his gun during a recent visit to a location just south of Houston, in the town of Friendswood.
"They're our heroes," one woman told local television station KTRK. "We eat at Whataburger all the time, but until this is resolved, I won't be going back to Whataburger."
In order to avoid more reactions like that one, the chain issued an apology to the detective and the Friendswood Police Department on Thursday night.
“This was an unfortunate misunderstanding of our open carry policy, and we’ve reached out to the detective because we want to make this right," Whataburger said in a statement obtained by KHOU. "Our company policy allows law enforcement with proper identification to open carry at our restaurants, and we’ll be reinforcing this policy with employees through additional training. We’ve also been in contact with the Friendswood Police Officers Association and are trying to get a hold of the detective to apologize for the misunderstanding. We want to make it clear that he and all law enforcement are welcome in our restaurants and we’re proud to serve them.”
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According to KPRC, the detective identified himself as law enforcement when he walked up to the counter of the restaurant on East Parkwood Drive with his service weapon holstered, but was told that it was against company policy to serve anyone carrying a gun.
The incident drew the ire of some social media users immediately after reports began to surface that the detective was denied service.
It's not the first time a police officer has been refused service in a Whataburger restaurant.
In October 2017, an employee at a Whataburger location in Denison, about 100 miles north of Fort Worth, was fired for cursing at two uniformed police officers and refusing them service. The Denison police chief at the time said the employee told him that "police beat up my boyfriend and are racist," according to a lengthy Facebook post made by the Denison Police Department account.
“Rest assured officers will no longer patronize this business,” he wrote in the post, but “I guarantee you when they call 9-1-1 and need us, we’ll come running.”
Two years earlier, in September 2015, a similar incident occurred at a location in Lewisville, just outside of Dallas. Police told KDFW that the worker behind the counter looked at two uniformed officers in that instance and told them, "We don't serve police officers."
While those two earlier incidents point to more direct anti-police behavior, Whataburger says the latest public relations slip-up was based more on a lack of knowledge of restaurant policy.