A Skagit County teriyaki restaurant has become the target of boycotts and threats after the county’s sheriff wrote a Facebook post on Thursday saying his deputies – and other law enforcement officers -- were asked not to eat there.
The father and son who own Lucky Teriyaki insist the whole issue is the result of a very big misunderstanding due to poor English skills.
Sheriff Will Reichardt wrote a Facebook post on Friday saying the owners apologized.
On Friday, the owner, Michael Li, told KIRO 7’s Natasha Chen, that he and his son went to the Sheriff’s Office that morning to apologize.
Speaking in Mandarin, he told KIRO 7, “They were very generous and did not ask too many questions of us. They recognized that we went there with good intentions. And we’re also very thankful to them.”
Thursday Reichardt posted this, which was shared thousands of times.
“My chief deputy spoke to the owner to confirm this because he simply could not believe what he was hearing. The owner not only repeated the request but asked that we spread the word to other law enforcement that they were no longer welcome either,” Reichardt wrote.
Li’s son was the one who interacted with the deputies and answered the chief deputy’s call.
Li told Natasha Chen that his son had not slept the night before, because he was taking care of his newborn child. Li said that Thursday morning, he even questioned whether his son should be working at all.
He said he did not anticipate that his son’s lack of focus and attention would result in his saying the wrong thing and creating such a problem.
Li told Chen: While the Skagit County deputies were eating lunch in the restaurant Thursday, a group nearby spilled soup and their drinks, and seemed agitated and argumentative.
Li said, “[The deputies] were standing up to pay. My son said the extra bit about, ‘are you leaving now?’ He was concerned. The way he said it – perhaps in the wrong tone in English – was not right.”
Later, when the Sheriff’s Office called the restaurant, the son told KIRO 7 he didn't understand, and he answered, "OK," to the chief deputy's inquiries, not grasping the gravity of what was about to happen.
Within minutes of Reichardt's post, Facebook blew up with "Boycott Lucky Teriyaki" and more. Thousands left comments on Lucky Teriyaki's Facebook page and another calling for a boycott, expressing outrage.
“I’ve received threats. Some people on Facebook have said they’ll drive up from California. I’m scared,” Li said. “My language skills are not good. I deeply apologize. Please forgive me. I hope people can understand and support me.”
Reichardt was not available for comment Thursday evening or Friday. The restaurant owners told KIRO 7 they welcome officers and they’re offering free food for all law enforcement officers Monday. “We want them to come,” he said.
Li added that in the past, officers and deputies sometimes liked to bring their own lunches to eat at his restaurant. He said he had always served them free soup and water, regardless of whether they ordered from him or not, because he knows they work hard.
Despite the sheriff’s new post telling people to patronize the restaurant, many do not believe they should.
“I think the damage has already been done,” said Traci Cysset, who brought doughnuts and fruit to deputies today.
She and her mother, who drove to Mount Vernon from Bellingham, said they would not eat there. Her mother said she’s not sure if the restaurant owner is telling the truth.
Matt Pinquoch, a Sedro-Woolley resident, drove to Lucky Teriyaki Friday to get lunch, before seeing that it was closed.
“I was just really curious. It was odd that the Facebook site posted something that can only really damage a place, and I just wanted to hear was there something to it? Or was it a misunderstanding, or what was going on?” Pinquoch said.
When asked about the county’s social media policies, Bronlea Mishler, the Skagit County Communications Coordinator said in a statement:
“We were developing a countywide social media policy for future adoption before this incident occurred. We think social media is a great way to connect with our community, and we want to make sure our county offices and departments are responsible and professional with their social media use. “
The county’s office of risk management told KIRO 7 there would not be any ramifications for the sheriff or his department, because the county believes the sheriff’s post was accurate.
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