A PREGNANT mum says she was told to ‘get out’ of a town centre cafe.

The 30-year-old, who only wished to be known by her first name Mariya, said she was ‘shocked and felt intimidated’ by a senior staff member at the Muffin Break branch in the The Mall Blackburn.

But the coffee shop has hit back, claiming the woman was occupying the seat for several hours and they had requested the customer move to a single seat table. They also refuted allegations of ‘intimidation or bullying’.

Mariya said: “I was visibly pregnant when I entered the shop and bought myself a chai latte and a muffin. I felt a little tired and unwell but I had some urgent work emails to respond to so I took out my laptop.”

She said she had been there for over an hour and the cafe was busy but few people were queuing. “At first a staff member told me they would be putting a family next to me and I was shocked as I am clinically vulnerable and I told them that would not be social distancing.”

Mariya, who is six months’ pregnant with her second child said: “The owner then became extremely aggressive towards me. He had no mask on and came to my face and I was told, ‘Have your drink and get out, I have a business to run’.

“I explained to him that I was pregnant and that I was not feeling well.’

“He (the owner) came back with two Mall security members. I told them I had not done anything illegal and I was not doing anything wrong.”

She said the security staff were more understanding. “By this time I was more stressed and I felt really intimidated to be surrounded by three men. It was also hugely embarrassing as the cafe was full and I felt like a criminal.

“The owner then said he was going to call the police.”

She said so as not to escalate the situation she left, especially as she did not ‘want to cause any more stress to herself and her unborn child’.

“Ultimately, I was going anyway. I just needed a bit of time which in my condition should have been understood. The whole experience was unnecessary and there was a concerning lack of customer care.”

She said she rang head office and complained and the woman she spoke to offered her apologies and advised that they would be looking into the matter. Yet Mariya has not heard back from them since.

Mariya added: “I understand that things are difficult for businesses currently, but this was no way to speak to anyone in particular someone in a fragile state.

“It was distressing and upsetting to be bullied by the owner of this franchise.”

In a statement, Muffin Break head office said: “We initially requested that we could move this customer to a single-seat table if she still wanted to continue sit in so that we could accommodate a family as the table she was seated at was for four-five persons.

“However, this customer refused to move. In this instance the customer occupied the tables for roughly three hours.”

They said as a policy ‘they do not attempt to ask or ascertain if our customers are pregnant when they dine in our store’.

The statement read: “We refute that there was any intimidation or bullying against the customer. We felt that the customer’s behaviour, comments and rhetoric towards our franchisee and his staff were insulting and derogatory which we deem as unacceptable.”

They said that all staff must wear masks. “It is a policy that all staff wear masks unless they have an official exemption from doing so.”

The store said they were expected to follow all government Covid guidelines with regards to social distancing expectations and customer and staff safety precautions.

The statement added: “It was communicated to the customer at the time that if she does not mind we would have to clean the area once she had finished her coffee. We have allocated tables for two, four and five customers.

“We requested that we have a waiting family that we would like to accommodate using the table that the customer had been occupying.

“It is also important to note that the Blackburn Muffin Break store has a strong and loyal customer base in the local community – customers that are happy and appreciative that we are keeping our store open under these tough and challenging circumstances.”

We put the claims made by Muffin Break to Mariya.

She said: “I was not there for three hours because that would mean I would have arrived just after 9am which I didn’t.

“There is no way my comments were insulting and derogatory I was simply requesting their policy which was not forthcoming.”

Loraine Jones, general manager at The Mall Blackburn, said: “We received a request for assistance at Muffin Break and two members of our team spoke to a lady who felt unwell. Our security operatives made sure that the customer felt better before she left the store.”