NEWS:   Olive Garden apologized to a Missouri police officer who claimed he was asked to leave because of his gun.

On 11 October 2015, Kansas City, Missouri police officer Michael Holsworth published a Facebook status update claiming he was asked to leave an Olive Garden location over the presence of his service weapon:

So I was going to eat lunch with my family today (10-11-2015), we had decided to go to the Olive Garden in Independence off 40hwy and Noland Rd, they were running late getting there so I decided to go inside and wait for them. I walked in and sat down on a bench just inside the doors. As I was sitting there waiting, one of the employees told me ” Sir, we don’t allow guns in here.” Now mind you I am in full police uniform and on duty. I actually thought it was a joke at first so I asked her ” Are you serious?” She replied back with ” Yes”. So I told her ” well I can leave I guess.” She then replied back ” yes please leave”

Now I never in my wildest thoughts would of thought this would happen in the Kansas City area. I see it happening all over the United States to other officers but never thought it would of happened to me.

Please share this post and let everyone know how this establishment is treating their local law enforcement.

Holsworth’s post quickly garnered attention and sympathy, inspiring outraged social media users to castigate Olive Garden for its policies on their Facebook wall. (The controversy wasn’t Olive Garden‘s first ideology-based PR crisis in 2015; an ongoing and separate debate over Planned Parenthood dredged up old, incorrect rumors the chain was a donor to that organization.)

Not long after Holsworth published the status update, Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police president Brad Lemon tweeted:

Lemon posted a lengthier version of the FOP’s comment on Holsworth and Olive Garden to the organization’s Facebook page:

Brothers and Sisters, As you know a very unfortunate incident happened to one of our own today, as he tried to eat a…

Posted by Kcfop Lodge on Sunday, October 11, 2015

Within the hour, Olive Garden’s official Twitter account published a reply to Lemon, indicating that any refusal of service was a “mistake” (adding law enforcement officers are welcome at the chain):

According to the Kansas City Star Olive Garden president Dave George personally called Holsworth to apologize for his experience, and a spokesman for the chain described the purported incident as “unacceptable”:

The president of the Olive Garden restaurant chain called and apologized to a Kansas City police officer who was asked to leave an Independence restaurant because he was armed, a company spokesman said Sunday evening.

Dave George, the president of Olive Garden, personally apologized to Officer Michael Holsworth for his experience at the Olive Garden near U.S. 40 and Noland Road, said Rich Jeffers, a spokesman for Olive Garden. The employee clearly made a mistake.

“It’s unacceptable, that’s what it is,” Jeffers said. “Olive Garden welcomes members of law enforcement all the time in the restaurants. We love serving them. They serve our community. The least we can do is provide them a great meal.”

KMBC also quoted Jeffers, and reported that “facts were being gathered” about the claim. That outlet also appeared to suggest Olive Garden had no such policy, and the purported refusal of service was under investigation:

Kansas City Police Chief Daryl Forte said he spoke with one of the restaurant’s managers about the incident.

“She was very concerned and shared (police officers) are welcome there,” Forte tweeted. “Facts are being gathered.”

The restaurant is investigating the incident but said it was “highly inconsistent” with how they do business.

“Members of law enforcement are always welcome in our establishments. We love serving first responders. We have no policy that states otherwise,” said Rich Jeffers, an Olive Garden media spokesperson. “We apologize for any misunderstanding that might have taken place. If there is a teaching moment, we will do so.

Olive Garden attempted to respond to the outpouring of anger on Twitter (primarily fielding requests for the employee to be fired). Among the chain’s answers to questions was one pertaining to whether diners (and officers) are permitted to carry weapons inside Olive Garden restaurants:

The chain also reiterated:

The employee who purportedly told Holsworth to leave has not stepped forward to clarify whether she definitively ejected him or simply indicated guns were not permitted in the restaurant. In either case, Missouri state law allows for open carry (and Olive Garden affirmed their locations base store gun policy on local laws). Thus far Olive Garden hasn’t offered any further information about the incident, and their apologies appeared to be based solely upon Holsworth’s first-person account:

Holsworth’s Olive Garden claim was one of several localized controversies in which police officers claimed they were shoddily treated by employees of chain restaurants in mid-to-late 2015. In September 2015 a Florida police officer said she was refused service by an Arby’s employee, a man claimed a police officer was denied access to a Starbucks bathroom (in what he believed was anti-police discrimination on the part of a barista), and a Whataburger employee was fired after two cops said they were poorly treated in the store.