Cleveland, TN – A uniformed Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) officer said that Outback Steakhouse management asked him to leave the Cleveland restaurant on Friday night, because he refused to remove his duty weapon from their “gun free zone.”
TWRA Officer Andrew Ward explained the interaction in a Facebook post, and called the situation “a first.”
“While I was at work tonight (in uniform) I stopped by Outback Steakhouse to eat supper with my wife,” he wrote in the post. “I was approached by the manager and asked if I would put my gun in my truck. I let her know that I couldn’t because I was in uniform.”
Officer Ward said that the manager left for a moment to go make a phone call, but then soon returned to his table.
“We were asked to leave because Outback is a gun free zone,” Officer Ward wrote.
The officer defended the manager in his post, and seemed to recognize that she was delivering a message that was made by someone above her pay grade.
“I don’t blame the manager...but this is ridiculous and we will never go back there ever again,” Officer Ward continued. “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! I am disgusted and have no other words!!!”
“The manager has apologized...and stated a lady sitting next to our table felt scared for her life!” the officer wrote. “She said police are shooting people and she could have gotten shot in the parking lot and the manager had to walk...her and her husband to their vehicle.”
“Seriously she was scared for her life?” Officer Ward asked. “We were joking and laughing with our server as we ordered then prayed. What was scary about that?”
In addition to her apology, Officer Ward said the manager told him he would be receiving a $100 gift card, redeemable at multiple restaurants.
"We’ve always allowed uniformed law enforcement officers to carry their side arms inside our restaurants,” Outback’s parent company, Bloomin Brands, said in a statement to WTVC. “A manager made a mistake and we have discussed this with her. We have contacted the guest personally and apologized.”
“The amount of support our community has shown us is truly humbling,” Officer Ward said in a final post on the matter. “Outback has called and apologized to me and my family and we have truly accepted this apology. There was a mistake made and that’s it... we all make mistakes...and must move forward with our lives.”
"I have spoken with the manger involved, the regional manager and the Vice President of operations for Outback today,” the officer told WTVC in a text message.
“They have apologized profusely and I have accepted their apology and the issue in my opinion has been concluded,” he said.
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