Chicago Coffee House Removes Black Patrons

A coffee shop in Chicago has been accused of racism after a group of Black children were kicked out of the cafe for allegedly stealing. Employees at Robust Coffee Lounge later called the police on one of the children’s mothers when she confronted the shop owner.

Activist Kofi Ademola caught part of the incident on video when police arrived on the scene. Ademola, who organizes against police brutality and racial injustice, recorded the mother involved, identified solely as Victoria, as she stood outside of Robust Coffee, Block Club Chicago reported.

Victoria said she gave her 13-year-old son money on May 30 to buy food and a drink at the Robust Coffee Lounge after school the following day. She knew she would be 15 minutes late to pick him up and did not want him waiting for her outside. In the video, Victoria says her son and other Black children were kicked out of Robust Coffee after making purchases. The children were reportedly told “I don’t want your money and I don’t need your money.”

The distraught mother said that she offered to come to the store to clear things up, but the shop’s owner told her that he neither wanted nor needed her help. When she went to the cafe to speak to the owner, he reportedly told her that he was not a babysitter and confirmed that he had not tried to identify which of the kids had stolen so they could be removed from the store.

According to Block Club Chicago, Victoria noted that it was concerning that he, a white man, had kicked out a group of Black kids. The two spoke at length, and she even offered to come in several hours a week to watch the cafe while the children were there. The owner declined her offer. Restaurant owner Jake Sapstein told Block Club Chicago that the children were not kicked out because they were Black, but because some had been stealing and his employees felt unsafe. Sapstein could not be reached for comment.

“They’re just looking to sensationalize something,” Sapstein said. “The students that came in that were stealing were African American; however, the staff that was here [and called police] was also entirely African American. It doesn’t really apply in any way.”

While Victoria and Sapstein were discussing why the children had been booted from the coffee shop, two employees called the police because they believed Victoria was “out of hand” and “aggressive.” Victoria said that the two were speaking and then “suddenly there were police.”

Chicago Police confirmed to The North Star that officers had been called to the scene for a disturbance. Officers were able to restore peace, and they left the scene without filing a police report, Chicago police officer Michelle Tannehill said in an email. The move did not sit well with Ademola, who said that Victoria and her son’s lives were put in danger when police arrived.

“White people consciously weaponize the police when they call them on Black people,” Ademola wrote on Twitter. “Her or her son could’ve been arrested or killed.”

Ademola did not immediately respond to a request for comment via Twitter. Victoria told Block Club Chicago that she felt unsafe seeing officers from the University of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department. She was worried that her son might see her get arrested simply for trying to speak to Sapstein, the Robust’s owner.

She said that when she was touched by one of the officers, she put her hands across her chest so she would not be accused of touching the police. Police presence did not stop her from voicing her concerns to officers and Sapstein. “I was so terrified, but I felt like it needed to be said [to Sapstein]: ‘What are you doing and why are you doing it?” she told Block Club Chicago. “These kids are not Black or white. They’re freaking kids... If you remove color, will they be kicked out?… You gotta treat them like they’re kids.” Sapstein later accused her of making the incident about race. Victoria and her son eventually went home. Despite the incident, Victoria said that she does not want the cafe to face a boycott, instead, she wants Sapstein to respect people.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.