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Jax Beach police chief accepts Cruisers' apology

Officers were warned to avoid restaurant after owner's angry comments

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – The chief of the Jacksonville Beach Police Department has accepted an apology from Cruisers Grill' owner, Bobby Handmaker.

Friction between the department and the restaurant's owner surfaced last week when two officers reported that Handmaker complained to them about a ticket he'd received for an expired tag. He said the officer who issued the ticket was a bully and that he “should have received a warning, being that I'm a resident and business owner.”

It escalated when Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Pat Dooley issued a memo urging his officer not to eat at the popular local burger joint.

On Tuesday, Handmaker wrote a letter of apology to the police chief and posted it on the door of the restaurant.

"Please accept my deepest and heartfelt apology for the pain and turmoil I've caused since last week," Handmaker wrote. "My callous words do not reflect what's in my heart. I love and appreciate our law enforcement officers, their families and my community."

On Wednesday, the police department released a letter Dooley had written to Handmaker accepting the apology.

"I understand there are times when words are said by persons in anger, and those words are later regretted," Dooley said. "Cruisers has been a staple in this community for 20 years, and I hope that your business and employees continue to enjoy success for many years in the future."

READ: Cruisers apology letter to police |
Chief Dooley's response

Many people on social media have said they won't be going back to the restaurant, and the Lakewood location also suffered a hit to its business. One employee told News4Jax the lost business is so bad that the employee is looking for another job.

The officers who reported Handmaker's alleged comments said that when they responded to a false alarm call at the restaurant last Monday, Handmaker took the opportunity to complain to them about a ticket he'd received for an expired tag. He said the officer who issued the ticket was a bully and that he “should have received a warning, being that I'm a resident and business owner.”

The report said that when one officer said he couldn't resolve Handmaker's complaint, Handmaker told the officers that he was not surprised to hear that his employees had been spitting in the food of officers “because you all are bullies.”

The police report said the encounter ended with the officers leaving and Handmaker swearing at them.

In his letter Tuesday, Handmaker said, "Officers Ford and Brown are honest and dedicated law enforcement professionals who would not dishonor the badge or the other brave men and women of the force with untruths, fabrications, or exaggeration."

Customer Mick Durocher said he doesn't believe Cruisers' business will be affected for too long.

“Slowly but surely the business will trickle back in. If you can hold on that long financially the business will come back," he said.

Sharon Steelman can’t say the same.

“I didn't know about this before I ate there, but if I had known I probably would have not eaten there," she said. "The behavior like that is scary to me and it's just very immature and unstable.”

Another customers News4Jax spoke with Tuesday said the apology is enough to restore his faith in Cruisers.

"The food is good, and I don't believe they spit in the food," Frederick Matthews said. "I think he said that because he was mad, and now he's apologized. For me, that's the end of it.”