SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Brickley’s Ice Cream has pulled the plug on its Wakefield location for the rest of the summer, after the owner said patrons almost came to blows Sunday and verbally abused some of the young staff at the popular Main Street shop.
Two men reportedly were angry that they were asked to leave the patio area of the business after being served, and took that anger out on the staff. The men swore at and verbally abused the workers and staff at BOL, the organic smoothie and juice cafe which is next door, according to Brickley’s.
“Along with our staff, we have been discussing our options and have made the very difficult decision to close our Wakefield location for the season – immediately,” Brickley’s said in an announcement Tuesday on Facebook. “We so appreciate all of our local and dedicated Wakefield customers. We are so sorry to have to make this painful decision and look forward to serving you all again in Wakefield during the spring of 2021.”
The confrontation at Brickley’s heated up when another patron spoke up and intervened in an attempt to help the employees and one of the men reacted in a threatening manner, according to Brickley’s.
“This is unacceptable and is becoming unsafe for both our staff and customers,” the shop said. “We have a limited and young staff at our Wakefield store and must keep them safe.”
Brickley’s owner, Steve Brophy, said online that with limited space, the shop has had to use the patio as an area for customers to wait for their orders.
“If customers stay to eat their ice cream on the patio, we will quickly have an unsafe situation with too many people congregating (without masks) while other customers wait for their orders. We just do not have the space.”
Brophy said some of the Wakefield staff would move to the Brickley’s shop in Narragansett, which is open Wednesday through Saturday.
“We have more staff in Narragansett, more room for customers to enjoy their ice cream as well as more senior staff that can help mitigate problems that may arise,” he said.
Sarah Bard said she was at Brickley’s during the incident.
“It was completely inappropriate and uncalled for,” she posted on social media. “However, the employees of Brickley’s and BOL handled this situation very professionally. They were firm in trying to maintain the safety standards they have to protect their employees and their customers, and I appreciated it.”
The closure comes just a few weeks after Brickley’s said it fielded verbal abuse from some customers who weren’t happy with the shop’s policies to deal with COVID-19.
Brophy, said then that “some disgruntled people” caused angst for the staff.
Both Brickley’s locations have had their share of customers who refuse to wear masks, or that express anger at the reduced menu, he said.
One customer who could not get exactly what he wanted told a staff member, “You are babies, are you going to let (Gov.) Gina (Raimondo) hold your hand all summer,” and “I hope you go out of (expletive) business,” according to the owner.
He said he couldn’t ask high school and college-aged staff to try to police the behavior of some who ignore the rules.
Brophy said at that time that he was considering closing the shop for the remainder of the summer season, rather than face more abuse.
An outpouring of support for Brickley’s soon followed the online posting about the shop’s troubles, and continued after Sunday’s incident. The announcement had generated thousands of “likes” shares and comments on Facebook. Many were supportive of the shop, and expressed shock, anger and disappointment at the turn of events that led to its closure.
“I sincerely hope the two were identified and that their ice cream fell on the ground,” Judy Parker said. “This is a sad commentary on humanity. We will gladly drive a bit further to support you. Thank you for taking care of those who do what is safe and respectful.”