- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 10, 2018

An Oakland coffee shop has been flooded with scalding online reviews after refusing to serve uniformed police officers, citing “the physical and emotional safety of our customers and ourselves.”

Hasta Muerte Coffee has received hundreds of one-star reviews on Yelp in the wake of local media reports about the shop’s no-cops-allowed policy, which remains in place despite efforts by Oakland officers to resolve the issue.

The Oakland Police Officers Association reached out to Hasta Muerte after Oakland Sgt. Robert Trevino was refused service Feb. 16 at the self-described “POC [people of color], worker-owned coffee shop & radical bookstore.”

“Obviously, this is both a surprise and a matter of concern for all Oakland Police Officers,” said Sgt. Barry Donelan in the open letter. “Oakland Police Officers work tirelessly every day to serve the residents of our City. I have never heard of Police Officers being refused service by an Oakland business.” 

A few days later, Hasta Muerte doubled down with an Instagram post blasting “police brutality” and complaining about “cop supporters are trying to publicly shame us online with low reviews because this particular police visitor was Latino.”

“The facts are that poc, women, and queer police are complicit in upholding the same law and order that routinely criminalizes and terrorizes black and brown and poor folks, especially youth, trans, and houseless folks,” said the Feb. 22 post by Hasta Muerte, Spanish for “until death.”

The no-cops stance has triggered debate over how the shop can refuse officers but Christian bakers and florists are banned from denying service to gay weddings, as well as questions about what the owners plan to do if the shop is robbed or otherwise victimized by crime.

Oakland Sgt. Bryan Hubbard, vice president of the police union, said the anti-police policy would have no impact on the department’s response to calls from coffee shop, which opened a few months ago after raising $35,000 on KickStarter.

“I think their position is very clear that they don’t want the police in there, and I can respect that,” said Sgt. Hubbard, who also runs the department’s training academies, told SFGate. “If they do call the police for any need, we’re going to respond professionally and give them the same level of service as anyone else regardless of their position.”

Even so, Hasta Muerte has issued a call to members of the community to protect it from crime.

“For these reasons and so many more, we need the support of the actual community to keep this place safe, not police,” said the post. “Especially in an area faced by drug sales and abuse, homelessness, and toxic masculinity as we see here on this block.”

The flap comes with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf under fire from the Trump administration for alerting illegal immigrants to federal raids.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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