Amateur Photographer Banned From Coffee Shop For Creeping People Out

UPDATE: Photos From Guy Banned By Coffeeshop

A coffee shop in Vermont has issued an one-year universal trespass order that bans a local amateur photographer from 67 establishments on the Church Street Marketplace because he would not comply with repeated requests to stop photographing the patrons and employees of a coffee shop. Here’s his Flickr stream.

This one should be fun. On one side you have a guy who is perfectly within his rights to hang out and photograph people in a public place. On the other hand you have a coffee shop and 66 other merchants who are sick of their customers and employees being creeped out by a guy taking pictures.

Who is right?

We join the drama after the photographer has been repeatedly asked to stop taking pictures and has refused.

About a month later, during a February snowstorm, Scott shot some pictures of a woman smoking a cigarette outside Uncommon Grounds on Church Street. Scott claims he was about 50 feet away when the woman, an employee of the coffeehouse, noticed his camera and asked him not to take her picture. Scott claims he backed off. But the woman also asked Scott to delete the pictures he’d already taken of her. He refused. The following Monday, March 1, a Burlington police officer again showed up at Scott’s workplace, and this time issued him a one-year universal trespass order that bans him from 67 establishments on the Church Street Marketplace. If Scott enters any of them, he could be arrested.

“If I had been drunk and gone into Uncommon Grounds and created a loud scene, I can understand why they wouldn’t want me in there,” Scott says. “But I wasn’t even in the store. I wasn’t even in front of the store.”

Manager Mara Bethel tells a different story.

“We’ve had a problem with him a number of times before — taking pictures of women, specifically, on the sneaky side of things — without asking their permission,” she says. “A number of customers have come in and said, ‘There’s a guy out there taking pictures and it’s really creeping us out.’”

Bethel confirms that Scott didn’t enter the coffeehouse to take pictures, nor does she describe his pictures as “lewd.” Nevertheless, she says, Scott’s persistence and demeanor were “unsettling” to her and other employees.

“For the young women around here, it felt really uncomfortable, someone kind of lurking about, and then quickly taking their picture and turning away,” Bethel says. Moreover, when someone asked Scott what he was doing, she claims he became defensive and argumentative.

It seems that both parties are within their rights. The photographer can stand outside creeping people out and the coffee shop and other merchants can ban him from coming inside for whatever reason they like, he doesn’t have to have committed a crime. In any case, according to the tipster who sent this story, the coffee shop is getting some backlash for the ban.

So, Internet, it’s up to you. Who is right?

I continue to get emails about this post, so I’d like to clear up my personal views about street photography. Consumerist is not generally accused of falling on the side of businesses, so it has surprised and hurt me to find out that some photographers thought I was simply siding with the store, particularly since I take similar photographs and Consumerist has a Flickr pool full of them. Our organization actively and enthusiastically promotes amateur street photography, specifically photographs of commercial spaces, so I stupidly assumed that my bias towards photographer’s rights was self-evident and that I could be sarcastic in tone.

Keep taking photos of commercial spaces and please keep submitting them to our Flickr pool. Consumerist depends both on you and your right to do this. Thank you.

sevencardan’s photostream [Flickr]
photo that got him banned [Flickr]
A Photographer Is “Banned” for Taking Pictures on Church Street [Seven Days]

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