Photo by Aaron Ricca.
Editor’s Note: A portion of this article ran in Tuesday’s edition without the complete story being told. The Miner apologizes for this error.
KINGMAN – The Kingman El Palacio Mexican restaurant went into panic mode Monday afternoon after miscommunication turned into a social media firestorm with claims that the restaurant refused lunchtime service to two DPS troopers.
“My squad mate and I were just refused to be served in uniform at El Palacio’s in Kingman,” wrote DPS Trooper Henry Pelham, of Kingman, on Facebook shortly after 11 a.m. “The server said she wouldn’t serve us and had a problem with cops. I’m sure your inability as a grown woman to stay on the lawful side of our lax laws in this state is definitely a cop’s fault.”
Servers Heather Stinchfield and Robin Crick were the two servers involved in the incident that led to online cries for boycott of the Mexican eatery.
Both waitresses insisted that at no time were the officers denied service and that the restaurant services law enforcement personnel all the time. The officers even left $15 in tips for Crick.
According to them, the troopers went to El Palacio’s for lunch. Stinchfield said she told Crick she felt uncomfortable around officers and asked Crick to take over their table.
While waiting for their food, Pelham went to the bathroom. Crick said Stinchfield was in the serving and prep area when Pelham was returning and said something to the effect of being uncomfortable around law enforcement officers, to which she thinks Pelham might’ve overheard.
“They were waited on. They ordered food and they ate,” Crick said. “Something was misunderstood.”
Pelham said they showed up to the restaurant shortly after it opened. He went to the bathroom while his partner, DPS Trooper Marty Harnisch, sat down and ordered his food. Pelham came back and was shocked when he was told about what unfolded.
“(Harnisch) said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but the (first) server didn’t want to serve us since she had issues with officers in the past,’” Pelham said.
Crick took over service for Stinchfield, and according to Pelham, told the troopers that Stinchfield has had past issues with law enforcement and gets nervous around officers.
“She asked me to take the table because she gets nervous around cops,” Crick said. “I don’t know the issues.”
Stinchfield and Crick each said they never denied service to anyone and that there may have been a miscommunication when Stinchfield asked Crick to take over the troopers’ table while she tended to other diners.
“I told the officers she had issues in the back,” Crick said, referring to the large, private dining area in the back of the restaurant. “Maybe the way I said it came off differently to them.”
“We never refused service,” Stinchfield said. “Ever.”
Stinchfield said she didn’t mean to cause a commotion and that Crick blew everything out of proportion.
“All I said is ‘Can you take that table,’” Stinchfield said.
Not to be confused with other area locations, Anthony Serrano, owner of the Chandler El Palacio, and his father, Gilbert, owner of the Bullhead City, Lake Havasu, Mohave and Laughlin El Palacio restaurants, said that they have no ties to the Kingman restaurant.
“They are their own entity,” Serrano said. “All the other locations have nothing to do with Kingman.”
Pelham wanted to clarify that he and Harnisch have no hard feelings against the restaurant.
“It wasn’t about El Palacio itself, just that one server,” he said. “We have no issues with the restaurant.”
Pelham was still stunned and felt that they were intentionally snubbed by Stinchfield.
“It was offensive,” Pelham said. “It’s not the first time this has happened. There’s a lot of people that hate law enforcement officers.”
Owner Gilbert Correa has since fired Stinchfield.
As for the Facebook rampage, he said people were talking too much without knowing the whole story.
“I serve everybody,” he said. “The problem was the employees.”