• January 21, 2021

Tokyo Joe’s apologizes for ‘inappropriate’ ‘addicts’ bathroom sign

 Tokyo Joe’s apologizes for ‘inappropriate’ ‘addicts’ bathroom sign

A Colorado-based Asian fast casual restaurant chain is apologizing after posting a note on a bathroom door that some perceived as undermining the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The sign read, “Restrooms are for Tokyo Joes Addicts only. Please see us up front to unlock. Thank you.” The note ends with a smiley face.

With the sign placed on a bathroom door, the connection to opioid/heroin abuse is hard to overlook. The assumption is that Tokyo Joe’s didn’t want victims of the opioid epidemic using their facilities. The News Station highlighted those concerns in first reporting the controversy.

Posted at the chain’s downtown Denver location, the sign was brought to the attention of some high-profile individuals, including Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, who posted the note on social media.

“Addiction is no laughing matter,” Singer wrote. “We have a bill to help stop overdose deaths in bathrooms. Tokyo Joe’s can do better.”

The legislation Singer pushed this year would have created a pilot program to explore developing supervised injection facilities in Colorado. His legislation came as the nation’s opioid crisis continues to take lives. The bill also would have provided immunity for individuals who provide clean syringes through an exchange program. The bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Singer caught the attention of Tokyo Joe’s, which responded, “Thank you for pointing this out. Our loyalty program is called the Tokyo Joe’s Addict Club. I will address with this restaurant immediately as the intent was not to poke fun at addiction or limit the bathroom usage to paying guests.”

Others piled on via social media, including this writer, which prompted another response from Tokyo Joe’s: “We agree this was 100% inappropriate and inconsistent with our brand values. We would never make light of the opioid epidemic. We apologize for letting our fans down. We will be addressing this internally first thing this AM. We can and will do better.”

The fast and seemingly responsible response from Tokyo Joe’s is notable. But it will be interesting to see how they address the “Addict Club” internally. Sure, “addict” is defined informally as “an enthusiastic devotee of a specified thing or activity.” That can certainly be applied to a loyalty program, like the “Addict Club.”

But in the midst of an epidemic that claims more than 115 Americans per day, corporate language becomes increasingly more important. American life expectancy has gone down two years in a row for the first time since the AIDS epidemic in 1993. That is a staggering statistic.

More than  42,000 people per year die from opioid abuse, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a shocking realization, opioid deaths recently surpassed vehicular accidents and shooting deaths as the most common cause of accidental death in the United States, according to CDC. The crisis was declared a public health emergency by President Trump and a recent forecast concluded that as many as 650,000 people will die over the next 10 years from opioid overdoses.

Instead of making light of the opioid epidemic with “cute” notes left on bathroom doors, corporations should be examining what they can do to eradicate the problem. Supporting efforts to provide victims of the opioid epidemic with clean syringes and counseling would be a step in the right direction.

Corporations can also use their voice through social media and other communication platforms to bring the crisis to light. The News Station will be watching to see just how Tokyo Joe’s responds to what was a foolish and potentially dangerous action on the company’s part.

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus served as the Senior Statehouse Reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette where he co-launched ColoradoPolitics.com, covering politics, the governor’s office, the Colorado Legislature, Congress, and federal, state and local governments. He joined in November 2016 from The Durango Herald. The Washington Post twice named Marcus one of the top state-based political and legislative reporters in the nation. He also has won over a dozen awards from the Colorado Press Association. In prior positions, Marcus worked for the Colorado Statesman, a Denver-based political weekly, and The Denver Daily News, a former free daily newspaper in Denver, where he covered City Hall, politics, and had an entertainment column. Before that, Marcus worked for the Longmont Times-Call. An Ithaca College graduate, Marcus studied journalism and creative writing, before moving to Colorado from New York in 2004.

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