[Editor's note 2/26/20: We have updated this story to reflect that Rep. Jennifer Gross has removed her Facebook post rebutting Holtman's Donut Shop's version of the events. We've replaced our previous Facebook embed at the bottom of this story with a screenshot of her post from 2/20/20.]
A disagreement between a doughnut shop and a state rep continues to leave a lot of people glazed and confused.
In a Feb. 23 update on Facebook, Holtman’s Donut Shop adds details about a Feb. 20 incident with State Rep. Jennifer Gross that caused a stir among Cincinnati’s social media users. During that event, Holtman’s called the police to remove Gross’s large group, who Holtman’s alleges were flauting COVID-19 regulations by congregating closely and not wearing masks.
“We honestly cannot believe that we have to write another post about this issue. As a business we should not have to defend ourselves and employees again for something that should never happened,” the post reads in part. “Whether you believe in the pandemic, mask wearing, social distancing, or anything along those lines, we 100% have to do what is put in place by any form of government department to run a business.”
Holtman’s and Gross have differing accounts of what happened on Feb. 20. They agree that the incident took place at the Holtman’s location in West Chester, that Gross brought about 20 people with her, that masks were to be worn when not eating, and that the police arrived and asked Gross’s group to leave.
But that’s where the similarities end.
According to Holtman’s first Facebook post on Feb. 20, the shop did not know in advance that Gross would gather with a large group. Holtman’s posted that the group did not practice physical distancing on their own, and employees repeatedly asked people to separate and wear masks when not eating. The post also said that Gross conducted her meeting without wearing a mask. Employees became uncomfortable with the health risks and interacting with the group, and potential customers declined to enter when they saw the number of people inside, the post said. Management then called the non-emergency phone number for the police.
Gross responded on her Ohio House Representative District 52 page on Facebook about 90 minutes after Holtman’s posted (Gross has since removed her post from Facebook). In the post, Gross said that she had called Holtman’s six weeks prior to “let them know I was coming.” She also said that she’d called the cell phone of a manager named “Lori” (which Gross later corrected to “Toni”) and did not receive a response. On the day of the event, Gross said, approximately 20 people gathered and obeyed employees when they were asked to spread out or wear masks. Gross said that she asked if she had to wear a mask while standing and drinking coffee, and the employee reportedly told her yes. She sat in the middle of the group, she said. “The next thing we knew, the West Chester police were there and asked us to leave which we did,” she posted.
Gross’s District 52 page was the host for a public Facebook event named “Coffee Chat with Rep. Jennifer Gross” for 1 p.m. Feb. 20. The description reads “Grab a cup of coffee and chat with your District 52 Ohio State Representative.”
But Holtman’s latest post disputes Gross’s account, saying that the shop did not agree to host the state representative’s group or any large group, given the ongoing pandemic. Holtman’s says that the issue did not stem from ideology (Gross is politically conservative) but from health and business concerns.
“Our team working became increasingly uncomfortable after numerous customers came in, left without purchasing anything, and called to report guidelines being broken. There were then multiple calls threatening to call and report us to the health department. Our employees were afraid of having any more confrontation, worried about being reported, and ultimately concerned it would impact their jobs,” the post continues.
CityBeat emailed both Holtman’s and Gross for comment Tuesday and has not yet received responses.
Read Holtman's and Gross's Facebook posts below, shared in chronological order.