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IHOP apologizes after server told black teenage customers to pay in advance

An IHOP in Auburn, Maine, will be temporarily shut down for employee retraining this week after a server was overheard asking a group of black teenage customers to pay for their meals in advance.

According to the Sun Journal, the encounter was reported by another customer, who said he had observed the incident, and wrote a long Facebook post about it.

Avery Gagne, from Monmouth, Maine, said he was at the IHOP with his parents when the group of teenagers came in and ordered.

“I heard them order their food and they were respectful and were not loud or rude etc.,” Gagne wrote. But then he says he heard the server tell them that they would have to pay upfront for their meal, and she described it as “a new generation thing.”

“The woman who requested they pay upfront came over and began to tell us how it was what management has asked her to do as they have had walk outs, etc.,” Gagne wrote. “She then looked at my parents and I and said ‘it’s not because of their color.’”

Manager Melvin Escobar said he was not in the restaurant when the incident happened, and that he, too, had heard about it on Facebook. He said the customers should not have been charged in advance, and that the server’s actions went against the restaurant’s policy. Escobar posted a public apology on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“This is the first time it happened, and that will be the last time,” Escobar said.

IHOP president Darren Rebelez told the Sun Journal that the company has “zero tolerance for actions that are or allude to discrimination of any type.” He said it was an isolated incident, and that “appropriate disciplinary actions” would be taken.

The IHOP in question will close Thursday for employee training, and the restaurant has reportedly reached out to the teenagers to apologize directly.