Polk worker fired for refusing to serve police explains what happened

The downtown Winter Haven Tropical Smoothie restaurant.
The downtown Winter Haven Tropical Smoothie restaurant.
The downtown Winter Haven Tropical Smoothie restaurant.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County man has been fired from his job at Tropical Smoothie for refusing to serve a police officer.

On Sunday, Lake Alfred Police Department Officer Adam Leatherberry posted the following on Facebook about an experience he and another officer had at a Winter Haven Cafe.

“So today around 1430 hours Geoff Price and I went to Tropical Smoothie, located at 301 West Central Avenue in downtown Winter Haven, Fl. As we walked in together I was in plain clothes and he was in his police uniform.

This guy in the picture and another worker were the only two employees present. This guy said “Hell no!” to his buddy as he seen us at the counter ready to place our order. His buddy replied what and then he said “I’m not serving them! You can… it’s the cops! I refuse to serve them!”

We walked out to avoid any extra sauces in our food. I called to speak to the manager, Beth and was told she wouldn’t be there until tomorrow. Guess I will not be going back there. Another place that does not support law enforcement. #tropicalsmoothie #placesnottoeat #cops #lawenfocement”

As of Monday morning, the post was shared by more than 8,000 people.

The Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Winter Haven responded by firing the employee, and posting the following statement on Facebook:

“We would like to thank everyone for the feedback! Our company doesn’t tolerate any discriminate of any kind. We have investigated into this case and terminated this employee immediately. This employee’s comment about the police officers was very disrespectful and absolutely unacceptable!

We have always supported law enforcement and military. For the past years, our cafe has served to numerous law enforcement who has patronized our café. We sincerely apologize for the misbehavior of our former employee. His comments about the police offers were very disrespectful and absolutely unacceptable!
Thank you very much for all of your feedback, which has helped us improve and do better!”

News Channel 8 spoke to Jake Hadden, the employee who was fired after making the comment. He said that he apologized to the officer on Facebook and he does not have anything against police.

“I serve cops day to day. I have nothing against police officers. I had been at the cash register all day long,” said Hadden.

“I shouldn’t have said anything, knowing what’s going on in our country right now with cops and everything going on. I understand completely why it’s so big and going viral so fast, but it was all just a big misunderstanding. It’s not like I went up to him to his face and said, ‘I wasn’t going to serve you,’ it’s just I didn’t want to go out to the counter and take anymore orders, so I told my co worker to do it,” he added.

It turns out a Winter Haven Police Department officer was with the Lake Alfred officer at the restaurant.  “It was just an unfortunate incident, isolated for sure, because our community and businesses have been extremely supportive of the police department,” said Winter Haven Police Department Spokesperson Jamie Brown.

“We just want to get the word out that we’re happy with what Tropical Smoothie did. Taking this swift action the way they did. They made it right,” Brown added. “I think he’s a bonehead, myself. You just don’t make statements like that.”

The manager of Tropical Smoothie said she was shocked at what happened. “Just please be aware that you have my sincere apologies. We have served law enforcement for all the years that I have been here and we would gladly like to keep doing that as long as they keep coming to our store,” said Tropical Smoothie Manager Beth Lawrence.


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