Since April, Jen Cremer and Richard Clark have been working to “heal” Boot & Shoe Service, the restaurant they bought from founder Charlie Hallowell, who stands accused of sexually harassing employees. Cremer, a former Hallowell employee at Pizzaiolo, and her husband Clark, a sommelier who was previously associate general manager of Tartine Manufactory, have been making incremental changes for months. Most recently, they’ve hired a new chef and bar manager. Next, they’re planning a grand re-opening. The larger effort: To move out from Hallowell’s dark shadow and create a new culture for employees and customers.
When the couple took charge in April, the situation was fraught, Cremer told Eater. “We have a lot of guests who feel torn — what’s the right thing to do now?” she said at the time. “I think everyone is still struggling with that.”
After more than 17 women accused Hallowell of harassment and creating an uncomfortable, sexualized atmosphere for employees — one source to the Chronicle likened Hallowell’s behavior to “sexual Tourette’s disorder” — the restaurateur stepped away from his day-to-day role. But his continued refusal to divest from his businesses caused turmoil inside his company. In July, Hallowell sold a second of his restaurants, Penrose, to a former employee, leaving him with just his original business, Pizzaiolo. But lately, he’s gestured toward a return to work and public life, appearing at a farmers market where some vendors say he once harassed them.
For restaurant employees critical of Hallowell but committed to their colleagues, the situation has been complicated. But as Cremer said in April, “the restaurants, for a long time, have been more than just Charlie — not to dismiss what he did.”
Ownership changes for businesses like Boot & Shoe Service don’t happen overnight. Actually, the process can take months. The latest news for Boot & Shoe is that Hallowell’s liquor license has finally transferred to Cremer and Clark. To celebrate — and usher in a new chapter for the restaurant — Boot & Shoe is planning a grand reopening event for September 23rd.
Meanwhile, to exercise the newly transferred liquor license, Cremer and Clark have hired bar manager Alex Phillips (Locanda, Camino, Kronnerburger). They’ve also landed Martin Salata, a longtime Pizzaiolo cook, as their new chef, and Gina Connolly is taking over as sous chef.
“Martin has a firm grasp on the ethos we are trying to rebuild here at the Boot,” says Cremer, “a healthy and fun workplace where everyone is learning and growing.”
Meanwhile, Boot & Shoe has reopened its cafe service. Verve coffee and pastry are available from 8 to noon, Tuesday to Sunday. “There were many morning regulars that stopped coming a while back, rightfully so,” says Cremer. “We are hoping that they can rejoin us again with a clear conscience.”
Correction: This post originally stated that Boot & Shoe pastry chef Kiri Mah was due to depart the restaurant but had made plans to stay. Mah tells Eater she had no such plans to leave. Eater SF regrets the error.