Three employees of Oakland’s Boot and Shoe Service quit in protest this weekend as the restaurant’s owner, Charlie Hallowell, refuses to divest from his businesses despite allegations that he sexually harassed workers. The trio of employees — general manager Emily Hayward, pastry chef Jenny Raven, and brunch manager Stephanie Chevalier — were making good on an ultimatum they and others issued last week: If Hallowell, who has “stepped away” from his restaurant operations, didn’t fully divest from his business, they vowed to walk out.
Three more employees — chef Gregg Cashmark, sous chef Matt Fishman, and cafe manager Greg Francis — say they plan to quit this week. Acting in solidarity, a larger group of employees called in sick to picket outside the restaurant on Saturday. They carried signs that read “I’m Not Cooking Because I Stand In Solidarity With Women,” and “no Creeps in The Kitchen!”
We called out sick from work last night and talked to the community directly about the sexual harassment case in out restaurant and what we stand for and it was really amazing. So many good conversations are happening. But it's still a very uncertain time.#bootandshoeservice pic.twitter.com/hPka0A0RzS— Dean Stuart (@deandraws) January 21, 2018
In December, the SF Chronicle reported that 17 women had come forward with allegations that Hallowell, who also owns the restaurants Pizzaiolo and Penrose, had created a “demoralizing work environment” and “insidious culture” at his restaurants. Hallowell, they claimed, verbally abuse employees who had no recourse at a business that lacked an HR department. One employee likened the owner’s speech to “sexual Tourette’s disorder.” Another, a head server at Penrose, recalled delivering a detailed work proposal to Hallowell only to be, allegedly, cut off mid-sentence when he told her he wanted to have sex with her.
In a letter shared with Eater SF, Hallowell wrote that he was “deeply ashamed and saddened” by the repercussions of his behavior. While an ongoing outside investigation takes place, he wrote that he would “be uninvolved with the daily operations of the business.”
That wasn’t enough for many Boot and Shoe employees, who wrote last week in their letting threatening to quit that “actively working to keep the business open while you are still a profit owner implicitly condones your behavior, trivializes the allegations brought against you and betrays our obligation to protect the financial and psychic well-being of our staff.”
On Sunday, the restaurant was closed for its typical brunch service, a move to “allow the staff to participate in the Women’s March.” Service resumed for dinner.