A Missouri Applebee’s franchise that was criticized last week after two black women said they were racially profiled while dining there is now permanently closed.
Why the franchise in Independence, Mo., just east of Kansas City, closed is unclear, but it comes less than a week after the women said they were wrongly accused of not paying and were kicked out of the restaurant. One of the women, Alexis Brison, posted a now-viral Facebook video showing an encounter with a police officer, who told them that restaurant employees believed they were the same customers who left without paying for their meals the day before.
An Applebee’s spokeswoman confirmed in an email to The Washington Post Friday that the restaurant has been closed and that employees have been offered positions at nearby restaurants. The spokeswoman did not answer questions about the reasons for the closure, which also comes just days after Applebee’s announced it will temporarily close the restaurant following the incident.
In a statement earlier this week, Applebee’s said it had fired the manager, server and another employee involved in the incident.
“We do not tolerate racism, bigotry or harassment of any nature, and we have taken additional steps to close the restaurant at this time in order for the team there to regroup, reflect, learn and grow from this,” according to the statement, which is pinned to Applebee’s Twitter page. “We are reaching out to the guests involved to apologize directly.”
Brison’s Facebook video has been viewed more than 4 million times since it was posted Saturday. The incident happened when Brison and her friend decided to have dinner at the restaurant after shopping at the Independence Center mall, she said. They had started to eat their chicken wings and mozzarella sticks when an officer walked over to their table.
The accusation that they had left without paying during an earlier visit seemed absurd to the women, who began to get upset as they repeatedly insisted that they had never been to the restaurant before.
“Why are you yelling?” the officer asks one of the women.
“Put yourself in my shoes,” he says.
“Can we just pay for our food and leave, because we haven’t done anything,” one of the women asks.
When one of the women appears to call someone for advice about what to do next, the officer asks them why they were “getting worked up for nothing.”
“This is too much of an accusation to call it nothing,” one of the women responds.
The officer laughs after one of the women breaks down crying and asks whether she was “really this emotional.”
“Mind you that we have proof that can show our whereabouts and it’s not even in our character to steal. After being mocked, humiliated, and embarrassed, we were asked to pay for our food, leave, and not come back,” Brison wrote on Facebook.
She said she later found out that the server who had accused her and her friend of not paying remembered the women allegedly left without paying a day earlier were two girls — a skinny one and one who wore makeup.
“In 2018, is this really what we’re debased to? Our weight and whether or not we wore makeup. She could not recognize any facial structures or any defining characteristics,” Brison wrote. “This is a clear example of RACIAL PROFILING that should not be stood for. Just because we are black does not mean we are all criminals and I will not be treated as such.”
City officials said that an Independence Police Department officer was called by mall security to assist with a theft report at the restaurant. The department has “carefully and thoughtfully reviewed” the unnamed officer’s conduct, according to a news release, but officials said they do not comment on findings regarding personnel matters.
“We sincerely regret the negative experience the young women involved had in our City,” City Manager Zach Walker said. “City staff receive regular training on diversity and sensitivity to ensure the diverse populations we work with have a fair, equal and inclusive experience.”
About 50 employees worked at the restaurant, according to Teryn Johnson, an Applebee’s employee. Johnson told the Kansas City Star that she showed up to work Thursday morning only to find that the restaurant had been closed.
The Independence Center mall is scheduled for foreclosure Friday, the Kansas City Star reported. Its owner, Simon Property Group, faces a default on a $200 million loan for the property. The Applebee’s spokeswoman did not comment on whether closing the franchise was tied to the foreclosure.