JONESBORO, Ark. – Sierra Brewer was looking for a cheap dinner with her family but after she breastfed her daughter Wednesday night at CiCi’s, she said management asked her to cover up or leave.
The manager in question and another patron admitted she was asked to cover up – but both deny she was ever told to leave.
The incident in question went down Wednesday night at CiCi’s Pizza, Caraway Road in Jonesboro. Brewer, her husband Dakota, a friend and her 8-month-old daughter said they were looking for cheap pizza and hoped CiCi’s would fit the need. As Brewer and others described, she and her group sat near the back of the restaurant, close to the gaming area, with Brewer’s back to the wall.
“I got two slices of pizza but my daughter started crying and wanted to eat,” Brewer said. “My daughter eats before me so I stopped eating myself to feed her.”
Trumann resident Angela Brant was seated nearby Brewer, facing her. Brant, who was dining with her mother and children, said she understands breastfeeding and is a mother herself.
“But there was probably ten kids in there,” Brant said. “Several were probably three and under. She literally popped her breast out. I went to take a bite of pizza and all I see is nipple.”
Brant said her 5-year-old daughter and asked her, “Mom – why does she have her boob out?”
“I went to take a bite of pizza and all I see is nipple,” – Angela Brant, Trumann
“You could see her whole breast, her nipple, everything was visible to the eye,” Brant said. “To me that’s not respectful. You should have some kind of shawl or breastfeeding blanket or baby blanket. You should cover yourself. That’s what I was always taught.”
Brewer countered Brant’s assertion, saying she actually tried to keep her breast covered.
“I’m trying to be respectful to the ten loud kids and their super religious mommies,” Brewer said. “I cradled her up higher so that no one can see any part of my chest. Normally, I don’t care – but I was trying to be respectful.”
Brant did not seem to think Brewer was showing respect, saying she could have turned around and faced the wall or covered the baby. So Brant contacted the manager on duty – a man by the name of Anthony.
This is when the manager approached Brewer and her husband – and where a stark contrast divides the version of the events. Brewer said the manager first spoke with her husband, Dakota – a former employee of the CiCi’s location – but then looked at her, said “ma’am,” and made a request she said she was dreading.
“He asked me if I would go to my car to feed my daughter,” Brewer said. “I told him i did not feel comfortable doing that. They would not have asked me to leave if I gave them a bottle.”
Meanwhile, Brant said the manager was very polite. She did, however, confirm the manager said, “with it being a public place, she needs some kind of cover to keep everyone from seeing her breast.”
From a legal perspective, this was incorrect.
Arkansas law says you can breastfeed in public – and there is no requirement to cover up, according to the assistant city attorney for Jonesboro, Jessica Coleman. Specifically, Arkansas Statute 5-14-112 governing indecent exposure includes an exception for women who are breastfeeding.
“A woman is not in violation of this section for breastfeeding a child in a public place or any place where other individual are present,” the statute says.
Coleman noted there was no law stating a restaurant could not have asked – but – there was nothing compelling a mother to need to cover up, under statute.
Brewer said she felt humiliated after the manager walked off. Her husband, Dakota, approached the manager and Brewer said told him he didn’t feel comfortable sending his wife to the car to eat. So, the manager again asked him to cover her up, according to what she said.
“I saw Anthony laugh in his face and my husband’s face get really red,” Brewer said. “And he said, ‘They just kicked us out, so let’s leave before I lose my temper.’ And the whole restaurant is looking at us. The women are still staring at me with dirty looks. It was very embarrassing. I felt like they were treating me horribly.”
Brewer said she felt humiliated and left – but Brant said the was escalated by the Brewers and said the manager never asked them to leave.
“She then proceeded to get angry and call people the B word,” Brant said. “She’s the one who got angry about it, put her baby in the car seat and slammed the door. She was the one who got hostile about it because she was asked to cover her breast.”
NEA Report attempted to reach manager, “Anthony,” by phone but a young lady said he could not speak to us. She instead directed us to contact Champion Management, who plans to release a statement to the media regarding the incident. They did confirm the manager disputed the versions of events from the customer.
Brewer posted her story to Facebook, causing a public backlash against the pizza chain.
“I went to the Breastfeeding and the Struggles We Overcome page, and a lot of the women there are the women who have commented the facebook page,” Brewer said.
Hundreds of one-star reviews were left for the business in just a few hours, with dozens of comments on the page regarding the incident.
Now, Brewer is helping organize a nurse-in to be held on noon at Saturday at the CiCi’s location in question. The event has almost 100 who are going or interested, so far.
Many are outraged at the mere suggestion this took place, based on social media response. While CiCi’s manager claims he never asked the breastfeeding mother to go outside or to leave, Brewer said she really only wants to see him admit to what she said he did.
“I’m a mom and I’ve been a mom for eight months now,” Brewer said. “I may be really young but my parents taught me to respect people. They were not respectful to me and especially since he won’t admit that he did it, I want him to admit that he asked us to leave and then apologize for it. It was wrong.”
To read the official statement from Cici’s Pizza, click here.