A uniformed officer armed with his service gun was asked to leave an Outback Steakhouse in Cleveland, Tenn., last Friday after he was told the restaurant was a “gun-free zone.”
In a Facebook post, Officer Andrew Ward of the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency explained that he and his wife had stopped by the Outback Steakhouse to eat dinner when a manager came up and asked him to put his gun in his truck.
“I let her know that I couldn’t because I was in uniform,” Ward recalled. “She then went and made a call and came back and we were asked to leave because Outback is a gun free zone.”
Ward explained that a complaint from another customer sitting nearby spurred the manager to approach he and his wife.
“There was another customer that was ‘scared for her life’ who was seated across from us,” Ward wrote. “This customer also stated that she was afraid because ‘police are shooting people’ and this customer went on to demand to be escorted to her vehicle out of fear of being shot.”
Stressing that he didn’t blame the manager for the incident, Ward nevertheless said the entire situation was “ridiculous and we will never go back there again.”
“What is this country coming to? A uniformed Law Enforcement Officer who is sworn to protect and serve the public, is refused service because they have a firearm!” Ward wrote.
Outback Steakhouse has since apologized to Ward and issued him a $100 gift card for his troubles, explaining that the entire thing was a misunderstanding, WLOS reported.
“We’ve always allowed uniformed law enforcement officers to carry their side arms inside our restaurants,” reads the statement from Outback Steakhouse parent company Bloomin’ Brands. “A manager made a mistake and we have discussed this with her. We have contacted the guest personally and apologized.”
Ward, for his part, says he has “spoken with the manger involved, the regional manager and the Vice President of operations for Outback today. They have apologized profusely and I have accepted their apology and the issue in my opinion has been concluded.”
Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson also issued a statement of support for Ward.
“I was very saddened to hear the reports of a law-enforcement officer who was asked to leave a restaurant in this community,” Watson wrote. “While I truly respect the restaurant for reaching out to the officer, our community must also show support to the men and women who place the badge on their chests every single day in order to protect the establishment in which the officer was asked to leave.”