Who owns Farley East Coffee Shop in Oakland? Antisemitic graffiti controversy explained after staffers deny restroom access to Jewish lady

Tensions over the Israel-Hamas conflict escalating across the globe recently spilled into Farley East Coffee Shop in Oakland as staffers at the cafe were caught on video denying restroom access to a Jewish woman.

On Wednesday, December 6, @StopAntisemites posted a video on X, formerly Twitter, showing cafe staffers blocking a Jewish woman from using their bathroom that had antisemitic graffiti written on it. The video has since been removed from the @StopAntisemites account but re-shared by multiple social media users.

According to the caption in the video, the customer had visited the facility strewn with antisemitic graffiti earlier and wanted to re-enter to film it. The Jewish woman began filming the staffers after she was denied re-entry into the bathroom at Farley East Coffee Shop owned by the Hillyard Family.

Farley East Coffee Shop was started by Roger Hillyard, a resident of Oakland San Francisco in 1989. He retired in 2011 and turned Farley’s over to one of his sons, Chris Hillyard. Per a blog post in San Francisco Zen Center, Roger Hillyard engaged in Sangha life, a Buddhist practice whose essence is awareness, understanding, acceptance, harmony, and love.

While still working at Farley’s Roger Hillyard reportedly contrived to integrate Sangha life with the Cafe, which reportedly became a community where several people gathered to relax and meet others.

Woman denied access to restroom at Farley’s Coffee Shop

Farley East Coffee Shop in Oakland has come under fire after a viral video showed staffers preventing a Jewish woman from using their bathroom strewn with antisemitic graffiti. The woman who had used the facility earlier wanted to re-enter to document the anti-Semitic graffiti.

In the clip, three employees at the cafe stood in front of the bathroom, blocking the facility, and asked the Jewish woman filming them to leave the premises. The woman repeatedly told the staffers “I want to go in the restroom,” to which the staffers responded it’s private property.

The woman insisted that she was a paying customer and had the right to use the establishment’s facility, to which a male staffer said:

“I know Israel loves taking private property and saying it’s their own, but we gotta have…”

The woman again insisted that she was a patron and had a right to use the restroom, to which the man responded:

“And we have a right to refuse service.”

As the woman continued to insist on using the bathroom, an employee of a neighboring business offered the use of her company’s bathroom. However, the woman declined the offer and said:

“No, I want to use this one. I should not be excluded and other people allowed.”

A female staffer then pointed out that she’ll only see the antisemitic graffiti, seemingly suggesting she agreed with the writing. The Jewish woman was then allowed in after she asked:

“If you agree with [the graffiti], why are you afraid that I will take a picture of it?”

The male staffers responded “Oh, actually, great — please!” before letting her document the graffiti saying, “Zionism = fascism” and “your neutrality….is enabling genocide.”

As the woman exited the facility, the female staffer was heard shouting, “Free Palestine. Now, please leave,” before the male staffer concurred:

“Free Palestine, “It’s always great. We LOVE it.”

Farley’s East issues apology in wake of the backlash

In response to the video, which has triggered widespread backlash, Farley’s East apologized in a Facebook post, stating that the anti-Semitic graffiti referred to as “hate speech,” does not reflect their values.

As a context, hate speech graffiti was written in our bathroom. We do not support hate speech; this does not reflect our values. After a customer used the bathroom and wished to return to document the graffiti, they were initially denied access and then allowed to enter the bathroom to film the graffiti. We apologize for this error and the distress caused to the customer.”

They added that they have removed the graffiti and have “taken corrective measures with our staff.” However, it is unclear if the Farley’s staffers were dismissed.

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Edited by Prem Deshpande
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