When a mobile pizza business confirmed it would refuse service to uniformed police officers, they expected the support of the community. However, the local farmers market announced a major decision.
For communities in Frederick County, Maryland, the Mount Airy Farmers Market and Mount Airy Main Street Association are staples when it comes to supporting local businesses. Each year, the nonprofit organizations come together to allow small businesses and individuals sell their wares to the public.
Without these organizations, many small business owners wouldn’t have a location to set up shop. So, when a pop-up pizza parlor made a major announcement regarding a new policy, the market decided to make one of its own that would leave the pizzeria scrambling for funds.
After much consideration, the Pizza Llama food truck announced to customers that it would refuse service to all uniformed police officers. The owner, identified as Andrew Wilkinson, ironically claimed that the move was intended to ensure the “safety” of his employees and patrons.
“Pizza Llama reserves the right to refuse service to police officers in uniform,” the business confirmed on Facebook. “The comfort, safety, and well-being of our community (staff and customers) is our priority. Every one is welcome to enjoy Pizza Llama, just not in a police uniform.”
Expectedly, the decision was met with vast criticism online, calling out the business owner’s discriminatory practices. However, the real repercussions for their brazen stance came when the farmers market was notified of their policy change.
According to The Police Tribune, the farmers’ market and its partners announced that Pizza Llama would no longer be allowed to utilize their lot in order to do business with the community because of the owner’s discriminatory stance. Instead, Wilkinson would have to find another location to set up shop, effective immediately.
“The Mount Airy Main Street Farmers Market (Mount Airy Farmers Market) and Mount Airy Main Street Association (MAMSA) are apolitical organizations and therefore, must not discriminate in any way,” they wrote on Facebook. “The Mount Airy Main Street Farmers Market and its vendors must put politics aside and serve all customers for the success of the market and the community it serves. Pizza Llama has been dismissed from the Market. We regret this action had to be taken and wish everyone peace during these turbulent times. We look forward to seeing and serving the entire community at the Mount Airy Main Street Farmers Market.”
The farmers market had made the decision two days before Pizza Llama announced it would stick by its business practices. The market admitted that it was disheartened that the food truck would double down on its decision but added that it would not tolerate discrimination of any kind.
Unfortunately, Wilkinson’s anti-law enforcement position might have something to do with his past. According to Deputy State’s Attorney Nanci Hamm, Wilkinson was charged with 25 counts involving a major drug-dealing operation, but pleaded guilty to three lesser charges. He was forced to forfeit $92,861 to the federal government. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail followed by three years of probation.
Wilkinson maintains his refusal to serve uniformed officers but has acknowledged that the decision may not have been economically beneficial. A Go Fund Me account was launched to “help Pizza Llama secure a new lot,” but the effort has only raised $855 of the $10,000 it seeks.
As a business owner, Wilkinson should have the right to refuse service to anyone of his choosing. However, customers also have the right to take their money elsewhere, which sends a more powerful message to any business than just getting them kicked out of their vendor space.
Anyone who operates a food truck knows it’s not easy to find a good lot out of which they can legally sell. Unfortunately, Pizza Llama may have not only burned its bridges with fellow vendors but the vast majority of its customer base as well.