The McDonald's fast-food chain apologized Friday for a sign at one of its outlets in western Tokyo barring homeless people from entering.

A Twitter user who visited the McDonald's in the Keio Hachioji Station building uploaded a picture of the sign, which read: "Those whom we deem unfit to use our store, including the unclean and the homeless, are asked not to enter."

Quick to grab online attention, the post met with mixed responses. Some condemned the sign as a discriminatory slur against homeless people while others defended it as a reasonable attempt to keep the restaurant "clean" and "free of bad smell."

Takuya Ota, a spokesman at McDonald's Co. (Japan) Ltd. headquarters, said the firm wasn't aware of the sign until after it had sparked an online outcry and made headlines, even though the sign had been up for more than a year.

Ota said that no other McDonald's outlets have this kind of sign and that the decision to post it in the Hachioji outlet, which is open 24 hours a day, was made at that location.

After being instructed by the headquarters, the outlet took down the notice Wednesday and replaced it with a new one declaring its intention to deny entry to anyone "likely to cause trouble to others" through such behavior as being loud, sleeping or lacking hygiene. It does not specifically mention homeless people.

Ota said each McDonald's outlet has traditionally been allowed to handle "improper behavior" by customers at its own discretion. However, the firm admitted that the Hachioji store had acted inappropriately.

"We examined the sign and decided there was no good reason to specifically refer to homeless people," Ota said, stressing that it was never the outlet's intention to deny entry exclusively to homeless people.