Black visitors say they were repeatedly targeted during proposal by staff members at Angry Orchard location in New York
A black couple says they were repeatedly targeted by security staff at a New York orchard operated by the Boston Beer Company during what was supposed to be one of the most romantic moments of their lives — a wedding proposal.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Cathy-Marie Hamlet wrote that she and Clyde Jackson dined in New York City and then drove north to the Angry Orchard farm in Walden, N.Y., with six friends to celebrate Jackson’s 4oth birthday. Jackson was planning to propose to Hamlet at the orchard, she wrote.
While there, security staff repeatedly insisted that Jackson had stolen a $28 T-shirt, then accused him of handing it off to Hamlet, and demanded their six friends prove they did not steal the T-shirt.
Hamlet, a New York pediatrician, gave a first-person account of the July 21 incident to NBC News.
“I have never been so humiliated in my life, myself and some of my friends left Angry Orchard in tears,” Hamlet wrote on Facebook. “On what was supposed to be one of the best days of my life, I was chased out of Angry Orchard by security who followed us all the way to the parking lot.”
Angry Orchard is owned by Boston-based Boston Beer Company. In a statement posted to the Angry Orchard Twitter account Tuesday, the company acknowledged that the actions of staffers “did not reflect our company values of respect for all.”
The manager and the security team on duty that day have been “replaced,” according to the statement.
“We recognize that we badly mishandled this situation and our team’s response was inexcusable,’’ the company said in the statement.
The company said it has reached out to Hamlet and her fiance directly “to express our sincerest apology . . . We’re deeply sorry that our guests were mistreated.”
Hamlet shares a medical practice in New York’s Hudson Heights neighborhood. Through a staffer at that practice, Hamlet declined to comment Tuesday.
In her post, Hamlet wrote that her boyfriend led her to a quiet area at the orchard and sat her down at a table when a security guard approached them both. The guard demanded that Jackson empty his pocket so she could be certain there was no T-shirt hidden there.
Jackson emptied all his pockets, Hamlet wrote, while trying to keep the small box with the engagement ring out of sight.
The security guard “then walked away and my boyfriend and I sat down at the table and he began his proposal,’’ Hamlet wrote. “MID PROPOSAL the same young lady from security walks backs towards me and says to me, ‘I’m sorry, I need to check your bag. I was told that he gave it to you, and you put it in your bag.’ ”
The couple complied. “Mind you,” Hamlet wrote, as an aside, “my bag isn’t even large enough to fit a T-shirt. I emptied my entire bag in front of her.”
At that point, after two interrogations, Hamlet said she decided to ask the security guard why they were being questioned so intently.
“Since this was the SECOND time she had walked over, I said, ‘I know you’re just doing your job, but I can’t help but wonder if this is because we’re Black. We’re the only Black people here at your establishment,’ ” Hamlet wrote.
The security guard denied that was the motivation behind the repeated questioning and walked away.
That’s when Hamlet’s boyfriend made his proposal.
“Shortly after my boyfriend pops the question! I say yes, of course. People started cheering,’’ she wrote. “And then the other 6 [of] our friends walked over to us to hug and congratulate us.”
But the collection of friends drew renewed attention from security, Hamlet said. The woman security guard demanded that the six friends empty their pockets, Hamlet wrote. Tensions escalated and one of the guards insisted they had seen Jackson hand off the T-shirt to Hamlet.
“Call the police!’’ a second security guard shouted. “I saw you steal it!”
Hamlet demanded that security review any camera footage immediately. Then she and her friends decided to leave the orchard. Security personnel followed the group out to the parking lot, she said.
“We as a group decided to leave rather than be attacked by the multiple security guards of Angry Orchard,’’ Hamlet wrote.
She continued: “Angry Orchard if you don’t want Black People buying your product or frequenting your establishment, then maybe put a sign on the door so that we know we are not welcome. I love hard cider, but Angry Orchard will never touch these lips again.’’
The company said on Twitter on Tuesday that it will launch training for all security staff on “unconscious bias” and security awareness “to prevent something like this from happening in the future.”