Facebook photo lands coffee shop owner in hot water

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A Phoenix business owner finds himself under fire, after posting a controversial photo on his store's Facebook page.

Some critics accused him of exploiting the homeless with the photo. But since then, Red Hut Coffee Shop owner David Marsh has apologized, saying he never meant any offense.

The picture shows Marsh posing with two sleeping men outside his store at 7th Street and Roosevelt.  On Red Hut's Facebook page he posted: "After this many 'non-coffee' drinks, these new friends could use a nice cup of Red Hut signature blend coffee … black!"

Marsh explained it this way. "A few weeks ago, we were getting ready to open up our new coffee shop, and there were a couple of guys sitting outside, and they were heavily intoxicated," says Marsh. "A third guy came up and they got in a fight. I went out and broke up the fight, gave them some pizza, and talked with the guys for awhile. They were heavily intoxicated. In fact, they were proud of it. A few minutes later, I came back with some coffee to give them, and they passed out. I thought, my new friends could use some black coffee from Red Hut."

But not everyone found humor in the post. One community advocate shared the picture on Facebook, and accused Marsh of exploiting the homeless.

Eventually, the picture spread to the "Garfield Historic District" Facebook page, where talk of a boycott  began.

"They started making personal character assassinations. I had people posting my personal address online. I felt that was very inappropriate and crossed the line. I have kids at home and was very uncomfortable with that," he says. "This thing got way out of hand.  I meant it as a light-hearted picture. I had a friend say, Hey, put some edgy content online. And I thought that might be funny, but it was not appropriate."

Marsh says to mend fences, he's offering 25-cent coffee for the upcoming "First Friday" event. He says all the proceeds will go to a local homeless shelter.