Man says Cheesecake Factory staff harassed him over pro-Trump hat

Restaurant says it has suspended employees pending investigation

By Tim Swift - Digital Editor

Eugene Joseph (left); Police officers at the Cheesecake Factory in the Dadeland Mall (right)

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - Police officers were called to Miami-Dade County Cheesecake Factory this weekend after a man said he was harassed by the staff for wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat.

Miami-Dade police filed a report about the incident, but officers said no threats were made and no physical altercation occurred.

The red hats were made popular by Donald Trump's successful campaign for president in 2016.

But people sporting the baseball caps have led to a number of disputes across the county in recent months between opponents of the president and his supporters.

Eugene Joseph and his girlfriend Jennifer Restrepo said they were eating lunch at the restaurant in the Dadeland Mall on Sunday with other family members when the incident took place. Restrepo told police that she felt uncomfortable because employees were gathering around the table and making comments about her boyfriend's hat. 

Restrepo said the employees were "crackling their knuckles" and threatening to knock the hat off Joseph's head, according to the police report.

In a message to Local 10 News, Restrepo described more about what led her to call police. 

"The employee gathered around our table, stopped working and began chanting that my boyfriend be kicked out," Restrepo said. "This was supposed to be a simple Mother's Day celebration and instead we were threatened and harassed by an entire restaurant of employees."

The Cheesecake Factory released a statement about the incident.

“No guest should ever feel unwelcome in one of our restaurants and we are taking this matter very seriously.  Upon learning of this incident, we immediately apologized to the guests in person," said Alethea Rowe, senior director, public relations for the Cheesecake Factory Inc. "The individuals involved in the incident have been suspended pending the results of our investigation."

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