Yesterday we told you about the anonymous cafe in Sea-Tac that is supposedly refusing to serve TSA agents. The story was originally reported by consumer-advocacy journalist Christopher Elliott, a fairly well-respected source of info on consumer stories, and has since been picked up by hundreds of publications and blogs.
Seattle Weekly talked to Elliott at the time and he stood by his source, naming this "K.C. McLawson" (who's yet to return our e-mails) as trustworthy enough to post his own story based on her word. But since yesterday, seemingly everyone who could confirm the tale (police, TSA agents, other Sea-Tac area restaurants) have all said they know nothing about it or doubt it very much. Thus, the story seems to be smelling more and more of bullshit.
Seattle Weekly spoke with managers at nearly a dozen different cafes and restaurants around the airport, including Mike's Community Cup, The Pancake Chef, Abdifatah Mush Hussien Cafe, Denny's, and Sharps Roaster & Ale House. In each case, the managers had either never heard of the "No-TSA Cafe," or had heard of it but thought it sounded fake.
Mike Condon, owner of Mike's Community Cup, summed it up best: "In this economy, I don't know how anyone could afford to not serve someone."
Hell, the Sharps Roaster & Ale House even gives airport workers (including TSA agents) a 20 percent discount.
The source "K.C. McLawson" also claimed that: "We even have the police on our side, and they have helped us escort TSA agents out of our cafe."
So we asked King County Sheriff's Spokesman John Urquhart (who's also the spokesman for Sea-Tac police) if any deputies had ever forcibly removed a TSA agent from a Sea-Tac area cafe. He said no, then elaborated in an e-mail:
I was unable to find any of our deputies or command staff either in Sea-Tac or in Burien who knew of this restaurant or had ever asked TSA employees to leave. Possible perhaps. But unlikely.
Personally, I'm skeptical of the whole story. TSA seems to the government agency-du-jour to vilify lately. With all the comments posted about this story, you would think someone would have come up with the name and location by now.
A check of Snopes.com show other urban myths where various groups of people were supposedly denied service in restaurants. I'd wager this will be another.
Finally, if anyone would know about a local business which has made a point of refusing to serve TSA agents, it's the TSA workers themselves. So we talked to NTEU TSA Union Chapter 334 Vice President Sean McMorrow, who--surprise, surprise--hasn't heard of such a cafe from anyone.
"I haven't heard anything about such a thing," he says. "Our relationship (with Sea-Tac area businesses) is fine."
Thus we're left at a bit of an impasse. The same hurdles preventing us from confirming the story are also preventing us from debunking it completely. The anonymous source trusted by Elliott apparently says that the point of remaining anonymous is because of the fear of backlash and because her employer "is Persian" (whatever that has to do with anything). And one can sort of understand why a person in that situation would want some relative anonymity.
But every other aspect of the story seems fishy. And in the world of evolving news stories, when something starts to look and smell like bullshit, it usually is.