Workers at Ritual Coffee Roasters are speaking out over alleged issues at the company, including discomfort with their founder’s controversial husband
San Francisco’s Ritual Coffee Roasters was arguably born into controversy, co-founded in the Mission by alleged sexual assailant and eventual Four Barrel Coffee founder Jeremy Tooker and Eileen Rinaldi (née Hassi) with a stated intention to cater to, as Wired put it at the time, “a new wave of software innovators, amid signs of a second internet gold rush.” In the years since, it’s expanded to six locations and faced outside criticism on a variety of fronts. Now its employees are speaking out, demanding changes to the company’s culture, Mission Local reports.
Examples of past kerfuffles at Ritual include a bizarre letter sent by Rinaldi to an artist whose work was hung at the cafe, saying that her art “was too serious” and that “the curator made a mistake, I fired him.” That art was then replaced (by Rinaldi’s husband, an outspoken SF gadfly nicknamed “Chicken John”) a BDSM-themed piece about conflict in the Middle East.
Rinaldi’s husband, a frequent fixture at Ritual’s locations, was again the source of controversy with his vocal opposition against a Dolores Park food truck from immigrant and female-focused non-profit food incubator La Cocina, and a planned SF parks concession agreement with Blue Bottle during which he threatened “a thousand people there spitting on them on their opening day.”
Now workers at Ritual tell Mission Local that they’ve often felt uncomfortable when “Chicken John” was in the shops — “his reputation was known within the entire company,” former employee Chyler Barraca says — especially after he allegedly tackled a Black patron who reached into the tip jar in 2019, allegedly yelling that the man “was going to jail, that he was going to die in jail.” When employees brought the incident up with Eileen Rinaldi, “there was a defensiveness at first because everyone was attacking her husband,” Ritual staffer Christina Busler says, and “we all have degrees of not really liking him.”
In June, employees banded together via an email to demand that Rinaldi change the company’s culture. “The world has changed, I have changed,” Rinaldi now tells Mission Local, saying that the company will change as well. “I have work to do,” she says. “We will all be better for it when we envision a future through this lens.”
And in other news...
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- Food service workers who used to be employed at Oracle Park will picket “to protest SF Giants’ Greed,” a press release says. The workers are seeking more aid from the Giants than the single $500 checks the organization handed out at the beginning of the pandemic, seemingly suggesting that their well-being is the responsibility of their direct employer, catering company Bon Appetit. [SF Chronicle]
- Halloween-themed Oakland dive bar the Avenue was closed for two months as the pandemic raged. Now it’s open for outdoor dining with an added bonus, as at night they've rigged up a big screen for communal, distanced movie-watching. [SF Gate]
- Berkeley lunch spot Garden Variety opened this week with a tightly-edited menu of salads and soups, with seating available in its rose garden courtyard. [Berkeleyside]
- Those worried about the future of SF’s spendy, new-style, fine dining scene should read Janelle Bitker’s deep dive into the operations at Lazy Bear, the ticket-only, fixed-price communal dining experience from attorney turned self-taught chef Dave Barzelay. [SF Chronicle]
- Starting tonight, the rooftop bar at Oasis is open for dinner, drinks, and live drag shows. The first show kicks off at 5:30 tonight, which, given this weekend’s heat wave, means diners should expect some queens melting away as the sun blazes over SoMa. [SFist]
- Also in SoMa: Shuttered live music venue Slim’s will be replaced by a DJ bar named YOLO, reportedly owned by the folks that run an alleged Hooters knockoff in Sunnyvale. [KQED]
- Wing chain Left Wing has over 400 locations across South Korea, but only a few in the U.S. The company’s first NorCal shop (only its second in the state) is planned for San Jose’s Santana Row, with an opening date that’s yet to be announced. [East Bay Times]