COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) — Condado Tacos closed two of its locations in Ohio on Tuesday after three employees got into a “heated discussion” with management on Monday night over fulfilling a catering order for members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the restaurant said.
The restaurant chain said in a statement that the employees, who work at the Polaris location, were given an opportunity to not participate in the catering order without repercussion. But, the company said, they chose to walk out of their shifts.
The news comes as protests — sparked by the police killing of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis — continue across the US. Thousands of people are taking to the streets demanding justice for Floyd, as well as an end to police brutality.
Jake Widdowson, a line cook and server at the Polaris location of Condado Tacos, was one of the employees who walked out. He confirmed the account of events to CNN, adding that he didn’t agree with the company’s decision to fulfill the order for police officials amid protests.
“In the time of the protests, I did not feel comfortable providing food for an entire police force,” Widdowson told CNN. “I’ve seen peaceful (protesters) tear gassed and shot at and have been one of them. Many people see it as an act (of) me refusing to serve cops, but it was really about the bigger issue of (Condado) claiming to support their community but was sooner providing food for police than protesters.”
**Watch the video above for at look at the Columbus protests**
While the incident took place at the Polaris location, the company said the Clintonville location was also temporarily closed to “allow room for conversation between our team.” The taco restaurant chain said they would be opening those locations again soon.
“We did not fire these team members,” Condado Tacos said in a statement. “We want to make it clear that they are welcome to return to work, if that is their choice, but they must understand that Condado Tacos is an inclusive business and that we will continue to serve everyone, including law enforcement.”
The Ohio State Highway Patrol said it was unaware that certain members of Condado Tacos were unwilling to fulfill their order.
“The order was placed for personnel working the protests and while placing the order, which was fulfilled, the Patrol was treated with nothing but kindness and respect,” the Ohio State Patrol said in a statement.
“The Patrol would welcome the opportunity to establish an open dialogue with the Condado’s employees in an effort to build inroads to open lines of communication that will help all of us. We are an agency who fosters understanding, communication and respect among all people.”
The restaurant chain was among the many people — and brands — who posted a black square on Instagram earlier this week as part of Blackout Tuesday, a day promoted by activists to observe, mourn and bring about policy change in the wake of the Floyd’s death.
In the post, the restaurant said: “We want to be clear that we stand against racism — always have and always will.” The post goes on to address the incident at its Polaris location.
“While no one was fired last night and if they want it, everyone’s job remains intact, we understand emotions are high,” the restaurant wrote. “The order was completed and picked up by the officers.”
The post generated backlash on Instagram, with users on the social media network calling it “the fakest thing.” Others accused the restaurant chain on Instagram of refusing to “admit any wrongdoing.”
Condado Tacos held a staff meeting with a number of concerned employees on Thursday, Widdowson, who was in attendance, said. He said employees had a productive dialogue with restaurant management, and that management was willing to hear the employees’ concerns.
Widdowson said that employees requested that the restaurant release a new apology that would further clarify what happened on Monday night, and to donate to local protesting funds.
While Widdowson said he felt it was a good meeting, he believes some employees are on the fence about returning to work and will likely wait to see what further actions the restaurant takes. Widdowson said he’s unsure if he’ll return.