Coffee shop sues Boise State University for $10M, saying college put them out of business for supporting cops

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The following contains editorial content written by a retired chief of police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today. 

BOISE, ID- Last October, Law Enforcement Today brought you a story about a coffee shop at Boise State University that was shut down after they had expressed support for law enforcement. The incident involved the owner of Big City Coffee & Café, which was forced off the Boise campus in relation to anti-police sentiment across the country.

The owner of the coffee shop, Sarah Fendley is engaged to a former Boise police officer, Corporal Kevin Holtry, who was shot five times in the line of duty in 2016. Holtry’s injuries left him paralyzed and also led to the amputation of his leg.

After being forced to close her BSU campus location due to snowflake college students protesting its support for law enforcement, the other shoe has dropped.

According to the Idaho Press, Big City Coffee has filed a notice of intent to sue Boise State claiming the business suffered $10 million in damages after the university terminated its agreement with Fendley’s business.

The tort claim was filed last Wednesday by Michael Roe, an attorney with the Boise law form of Givens Pursley. The suit alleges that administrators at the university had withheld information from Fendley, most notably that BSU student government representatives had been pressuring the university to terminate the contract with Big City Coffee.

That ultimately resulted in administrators forcing “the termination” of the company’s contract with Aramark, which serves as BSU’s food service partner, according to the lawsuit.

Fendley’s suit alleges that administrators at the university had been aware of “the potential for controversy as early as July 27, [2020],” which was prior to Fendley opening the Boise State location.

The suit says had Fendley been aware of the pending controversy, she may not have proceeded with opening the new location, in which she invested around $150,000 and opened in early September.

“Had BSU not concealed this critical information, Fendley…may have elected not to open the second location, not borrowed over one hundred thousand dollars (during a global pandemic), not purchased equipment, or had the opportunity to take other measures to mitigate the damage she and (Big City Coffee) would ultimately suffer,” the claims says.

A spokesman for BSU, Mike Sharp acknowledged that the university had received notice of the tort claim, however, does not comment on potential or pending litigation.

It should be noted that a tort claim is not a lawsuit per se, but is typically a precursor to such a suit. Tort claims are written demands to recover money damages from a government entity, it’s employees and/or its representatives alleging misconduct.

According to tort law (at least in Idaho), the requirement is that the agency involved must respond to the claim within three months.

Last October, the Idaho Press reported Big City Coffee closed its BSU location after just over a month of operating in response to protests from a faction of snowflake students and a lack of public support from the university.

Since Fendley’s fiancée was shot in 2016, Big City Coffee’s downtown Boise location has displayed blue line stickers and flags to show support for law enforcement.

While some claim the blue line and Blue Lives Matter is an anti-Black Lives Matter organization, the thin blue line has existed well beyond Black Lives Matter. Still, anti-police activists claim the symbol is a “racist” symbol.

Once word got around the BSU campus about Fendley’s support for law enforcement, a committee within the university’s student government, the “Inclusive Excellence Student Council” expressed concerns over Fendley’s support for law enforcement.

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The committee which “aims to fulfill the needs of underrepresented groups on campus” was concerned that such support of police would send “a poor message to black students” and “silence students.” It’s COFFEE, for God’s sake.

Perhaps the students were more despondent by the fact that Big City Coffee replaced Starbucks, the wokest of the woke companies, which ended its contract with BSU last year.

The tort claim includes a section which describes “diversity and inclusivity” programs at BSU as promoting an “extreme social justice agenda,” while also noting that the president of BSU, Marlene Tromp is “fully committed to the social justice movement.”

“This deep-seated institutional and individual bias is important context for the actions taken by BSU against Fendley and (Big City Coffee), which form the basis of this claim,” it says.

Included as defendants in the tort claim are Tromp, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management Leslie Webb, vice president for university affairs and Tromp’s chief of staff Alicia Estey, and assistant to the vice president for equity initiatives, Francisco Salinas.

The tort claim notes that Fendley and Holtry, along with two others had a meeting last October 22 with BSU administrators and an Aramark representative.

During that meeting, Webb claimed that Big City Coffee had created a “firestorm” on campus. “It was clear that BSU had already decided that it was going to force the termination” of Big City Coffee’s contract, the claim alleges.

Moreover, during the meeting Fendley specifically “asked Webb if the University would back her up in the face of the unfair criticism,” at which point Webb said, “That’s not going to happen.”

The Aramark representative, who is not named in the tort claim, said that the campus location should perhaps close until January, whereby Fendley asked if BSU “would then support” the coffee shop.

“At that point, Estey said, ‘I think it is best if we part ways,’” according to the tort claim. “Her statement was not an invitation for further discussion or a mere observation. It was made in a manner and context that left no doubt that (Big City Coffee’s) time on the BSU campus had come to an end.”

In an apparent attempt to pre-emptively address the departure of the coffee shop from campus, the university released a statement last October which said, in part, “At no time did the administration at Boise State ask Big City Coffee to leave campus. At no time did the administration ask Big City Coffee to compromise the owner’s First Amendment rights.”

The claim alleges that the defendants had slandered and libeled Ms. Fendley, had interfered with her contract, defrauded her by “concealing and misrepresenting” information upon which Fendley “detrimentally relied” and violated Big City Coffee’s First and 14th Amendment rights.

The tort claim alleges that Fendley suffered damages in excess of $10 million , which is based on the cost to open the shop on campus, lost income the shop would have realized had it been allowed to remain open, as well as “reputational and emotional damages suffered to being wrongfully and maliciously labeled as a racist and a white supremacist.”

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