SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. -- The owner of a teriyaki restaurant in Sedro-Woolley has asked local law enforcement to no longer dine at the establishment, the Skagit County Sheriff's office said Thursday afternoon. Through an interpreter Thursday night, an owner of Lucky Teriyaki told KOMO News that a language barrier appears to have led to a huge misunderstanding about what happened.
In a post on the Skagit County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, Sheriff Will Reichardt said four of his deputies were eating at Lucky Teriyaki when two went to pay the bill. As they were paying, the owner told deputies they were no longer welcome at the restaurant.
"They were told that other customers didn't like law enforcement there," Reichardt said in the post.
Reichardt said his chief deputy followed up with the owner. The owner repeated the request, Reichardt said, and asked "that we spread the word to other law enforcement that they were no longer welcome either."
Within an hour, the sheriff's Facebook post had been shared thousands of times, and comments continued to flood in.
"Regardless of your feelings about law enforcement, that was nothing but wrong on so many levels," Faye Whitney wrote on Facebook.
"It's their right to refuse service. If customers feel threatened, just like with gang members, they hurt business, so they must go," John Rowlette said in a tweet.
Reichardt said the owner's request took him by surprise, as the Skagit County community has an "overpowering show of appreciation" for deputies and officers serving there.
"I said there must be a misunderstanding because I never feel that way when I go over there," said Mike Bennett, who owns a business nearby. "They always seem like really good people. I was kinda like super surprised."
Through an interpreter, the owners of Lucky Teriyaki said they've received death threats online and over the phone. A language barrier appears to have led to the misunderstanding about what happened at the restaurant, they said.
While the deputies were eating, an employee noticed some customers at another table had spilled some soup and water, the owners said. The employee couldn’t understand why the customers were getting upset, and wondered if it was because the deputies were sitting nearby, they said.
That's when the employee asked deputies if they were about to leave.
According to the owner, the employee didn’t understand when law enforcement later tried to clarify what had happened.
The owners said they feel terrible about it, and are inviting members of law enforcement to come eat at the restaurant for free on Monday, July 18.
"Yeah, I want police to coming," one of the owners said.
"He means welcome for police officers to come over here," said the owner's son, Xuechuang Li.
Dave North, owner of The Bullpen Sports Bar & Grill in Sedro Woolley, said he's still planning a police appreciation day at restaurants in Skagit County for early August. It'll be a fundraiser for the Behind the Badge Foundation, and the date and participating restaurants will be announced once North works out the details. Anyone interested can contact North on his Facebook page.