Owner responds after customer claims SB Subway denies African-American boys water cups

Published: Jul. 27, 2018 at 5:17 PM EDT
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A South Bend woman says a local Subway discriminated against two African-American boys.

Tuesday afternoon, Dominique Bonilla said she went to fill her drink at the Subway on Eddy Street in South Bend when the pair of boys walked in, waited in line and politely asked for complimentary water cups that are often visible in fast-food restaurants.

"They were told, very hard, 'no,' and leave," Bonilla recalled.

She followed the boys outside and asked them to come inside while she asked for the manager.

"Even after offering to pay for the cup of water -- or the cups of water -- I was then told 'no,'" said Bonilla, adding the manager didn't provide a definitive explanation.

She then asked if the two boys ever had caused the restaurant trouble.

"He said, 'No,' And then he said, 'You never know with these people,'" Bonilla trailed off. "That's what really got me going."

Bonilla noted she asked another person inside the restaurant if that water cup was free. The response was yes.

On Friday, Alpeshkumar Patel, the owner of the Eddy Street Subway, issued a statement:

“We apologize for the confusion regarding our water cup policy. Because we’re next to a high school, we regularly provide water cups to students who come in. We had considered requiring a purchase, but have decided to continue giving water cups to those who ask. I will make sure that all my employees are aware of this policy."

Meanwhile, a Subway company spokesperson states:

“Subway restaurants are independently owned and operated, so each owner sets his or her own policy regarding complimentary cups. Respect for every individual is a core Subway value, and we encourage Franchisees to set policies that provide the best customer service to all guests.”

Bonilla hopes this story makes restaurants more aware of how words affect people.

"This is an opportunity, I think, for establishments to think, 'Maybe we need to take a step back, and we need to think about the things we are saying to our customers,'" Bonilla said.

She also praised the boys who did not receive water cups on Tuesday.

"I commend them and their parents for teaching them to be respectful and just to handle everything with respect and dignity," she said.

Bonilla purchased the boys Gatorade following the incident.