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Independence Applebee’s at center of racial profiling controversy to close for good

The Independence Applebee’s where two customers were racially profiled last week will permanently close, according to an employee who worked there for decades.

On Thursday, Applebee’s employee Teryn Johnson wrote to The Star that after 30 years working at the restaurant, she and other employees were told about the closure this morning.

“(I) went into work this morning ... and they said they are shutting the store down,” Johnson wrote to The Star.

An Applebee’s spokeswoman confirmed the closure by email.

“The franchisee has advised that the restaurant is permanently closed and employees have been offered positions at nearby restaurants,” wrote Melissa Hariri.

It’s unclear if the closing is related to the racial profiling incident.

Johnson wrote that about 50 employees worked at the restaurant, and some have already transferred to other area Applebee’s restaurants.

When asked to be interviewed, Johnson said she was too upset to speak with anyone.

The closing comes three days after Applebee’s announced it would temporarily close the Independence restaurant after a black customer’s online video complaint of racial profiling became a viral embarrassment.

The video showed Alexis Brison and her friend Asia Hardy being accused of not paying their tab the night before. Hardy pleads her innocence with an Independence police officer, who at times mocks and laughs at her.

The video has been viewed millions of times.

After the women were forced to leave, one called the restaurant and said she was told by a manager that staff knew they were the culprits because they remembered one being skinny and another wearing makeup.

“This is what black people have to deal with,” said Brison in the video, which was posted to her Facebook page on Saturday.

Hardy is a student at Rockhurst University.

The chain at first said there were no indications of racial bias. The next day, the company said it does not tolerate “racism, bigotry or harassment of any nature” and fired three employees.

Applebee's closing 021518 0 (2)
The Applebee’s restaurant where two women were racially profiled will close its doors permanently, an employee says. The restaurant employed about 50 people. ALLISON LONG along@kcstar.com

As of Thursday, the restaurant’s exterior no longer has Applebee’s signage.

The Independence Center is scheduled for a foreclosure sale on Friday. Simon Property Group, the mall owner, faces default on a $200 million loan for the property.

The size of the loan and increased competition for retail in and around Independence were cited as reasons for Simon Property Group’s difficulty with the mall.

Also on Thursday, the city of Independence issued a press release regarding the police officer’s actions in the incident. At one point in the video, the officer can be seen laughing, waving at the person recording and asking, “Is she always this emotional?”

In its release, the city said the officer’s conduct “has been carefully and thoughtfully reviewed by the Professional Standards Unit to ensure compliance with departmental policy,” adding it does not comment on findings in matters regarding personnel.

“We carefully consider each interaction of our officers with the public for opportunities to learn and train to better serve our community,” said Chief Brad Halsey, according to the release.

The release also said that officers receive implicit bias training, but acknowledged that policies are being evaluated following the incident for possible updating.

“We sincerely regret the negative experience the young women involved had in our City,” said Independence City Manager Zach Walker.

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg

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