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Alderwood Dragged on Social Media for Allegedly Bigoted Firing

Restaurant owners say they “do not condone violence or racism”

The Santa Cruz restaurant Alderwood, which opened in 2018, is facing questions about a recent incident there.

Updated June 30, 9pm: This story was updated with information from a media report by KION.

It probably isn’t a good sign when a business has to post a message on social media insisting that its “ownership, management and staff do not condone violence or racism.”

The owners of the downtown Santa Cruz restaurant Alderwood said on Instagram Monday that they had reviewed security footage of an “extremely unfortunate” fight that broke out in the restaurant’s dining area last week. “After reviewing security footage, both parties were found to be at fault and removed,” the post read.

The post—apparently written in response to online backlash Monday—discussed how the founders of Alderwood, which opened at the end of 2018, have always wanted it to be part of the Santa Cruz community and a staple of the culinary arts scene in Santa Cruz. “Our staff and guests are multicultural and always have been,” the post continued, before elaborating that the business’ leaders are “trying to heal” from the incident.

According to Reddit user Necessary-Parking, who posted about the incident on the Santa Cruz subreddit, a group of white diners shouted racial and homophobic slurs at an Alderwood chef in the restaurant before attacking him physically. The chef, the user wrote, retaliated in self-defense and “was subsequently fired a week later.”

The Reddit post, which came before Alderwood’s statement on Instagram, called on the restaurant to respond.

Alderwood did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Good Times on what happened. Grainy footage has surfaced on Imgur of a fight at the restaurant. Although the video does not provide a clear shot of what transpired, it appears to show an older white couple fighting with an Alderwood employee. At a few points, the employee and a man nearly came to blows.

In a Tuesday evening report by KION, restaurant managers told a TV news reporter that they’ve received multiple serious threats since the firing. They also said they had no choice but to fire the employee because of his role in the fight.

“The security footage shows both sides escalating the situation, and perhaps not an equal measure, but it’s important to note it was violent,” Executive Chef Jeffrey Wall told KION, adding that the executive team messed up by not communicating the reasons behind the firing.

According to the report, the restaurant was closed Tuesday and does not have a plan for when it will reopen. 

Restaurant employee Evan Maine told KION at least 10 employees have resigned due to the situation. He expressed frustration with leadership over its handling of the fiasco and the decision to fire his colleague.

“It’s just unjustified. They wanted to cut their ties from the situation by letting him go, which ultimately had a major blow-back on them in the public eye,” Maine told KION. “In today’s social climate we all know no one’s going to stand for that kind of behavior.”

Since Monday afternoon, more than a dozen users have posted one-star reviews on Alderwood’s Yelp page. That prompted a note from Yelp that the page is being monitored by the site due to current events, which have been known to drive people to leave low ratings. The pop-up note on Alderwood’s Yelp page says the site has temporarily disabled posting.

The restaurant is also getting called out on Twitter.

Alderwood’s Facebook page has filled up with comments from upset users who want to know more about what happened at the restaurant, how management handled the situation and why they handled it that way.

Many pictures of fancy-looking dishes now have long streams of comments—some of them referring to “Karens,” a slang term for entitled white people.

“Your risotto looks like Karen needs to speak to the manager,” Donna Bosworth wrote.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. SFmama

    July 28, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    I do not understand why 1) restaurant staff did not ask the party of six who were clearly drunk and cut off from bar to leave 2) why management fired the chef and 3) why that party of six have not been publicly named and shamed. Their behavior was atrocious.

  2. Bangund

    July 4, 2020 at 8:03 am

    We can not let a bunch of judgemental cancel culture millennials judge the decision of this restaurant manager and blow it up on social media while hiding behind fake names. This restaurant is top notch. The waiter should have been a professional and never let it escalate. Manager decides to fire him that’s THEIR decision. Mind your own business.

  3. O Tigue

    July 3, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Yesss Kiyana Modes! That’s the truth!What a breath of fresh air and finally something to sit up and read! Thanks so much.

  4. Ivy

    July 2, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    I agree with Kiyana Modes as well. As the only culture-focused local newspaper (sentinel is no longer a local paper), I was hoping that GT would put a little more effort into this. I hope you are doing an investigation into this incident and connecting it to broader trends of combating racism in this country. Everything you said in this article was already known to me by hearing about it online and on social media. Here are some more aspects of the story that I have heard from various accounts of eyewitnesses online. I would love it if you guys could do some real journalism and confirm some of these additional pieces of information which are relative to the story:
    -The racist party included Alderwood investors
    -The management left the building or refused to help with the altercation
    -The employee who was attacked had to go to the ER after a display/partition wall was pushed onto him
    -The police called an Uber for the drunken racists…were charges filed?
    -Employees at Alderwood make minimum wage

    I hope that you guys put some effort into this story because I think there are still a lot of people in this town that think Santa Cruz is a liberal paradise free of racism.

  5. S Young

    July 1, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    Bravo Kiyana Modes for this accurate and insightful reply.

  6. kat farrow

    July 1, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    As a customer of Alderwood (many times) I’m really disappointed. Completely agree with the comments from Kiyana Modes, talking about the GT article seeing this through a white filter. This employee was verbally abused, shoved and provoked. He responded. End result is he is now unemployed while this group of middle aged drunk diners get to breeze on with their lives with no consequences. Whilst Alderwood has been called out I would also like to see the perpetrators have their names published so we know who they are. If they are comfortable yelling racial slurs in public settings then let’s put their names out there so the community at large knows who they are. And maybe the next time they use racial slurs and incite violence they will either be charged or at the least, the restaurant will side with their employee. I can’t understand how Alderwood, after taking a week to make their decision, thought that firing their employee was the best course and the right action. Will not be going back.

  7. John

    July 1, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    @Kiyana Modes
    Spot on analysis.
    The behavior by the employee in the video is clearly and solely self-defense, and probably more restrained than I would have been in that situation. Unless there is another video from earlier that shows the employe initiating violence, which the (unsubstantiated) eyewitness accounts I have seen say didn’t occur, there is simply no justification for firing the employee.
    On the contrary, if I was the owner, I would have given the employee time off with pay, and pressed charges against the aggressors.
    This restaurant is one of a handful in Santa Cruz that exude affluent white privilege. I had several bad experiences with one in the Seabright neighborhood. I will never patronize any of them again, even though I thoroughly enjoy fine dining.

  8. Kiyana Modes

    July 1, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Honestly- the GT, like many other media news outlets, does little justice to the deeper analysis needed when racial discrimination or violence occurs in our community. While it’s important to report on the straight facts, it’s also another reminder of the ways in which our local media, which is by and large comprised of white journalists, tends to present these incidents “neutrally,” ignoring the need to draw connections between white supremacist strategies of blaming BIPOC citizens for the racial discrimination they experience. Quoting Alderwood’s social media post that says “both parties were found at fault” without drawing a connection between this response and the widely reported racist statement Trump made in reaction to racist violence in North Carolina (“very good people on both sides”) is poor journalism at best, and white apologism at worst. In the midst of a Black Liberation Uprising, its unconscionable to write this article without any mention of the broader national context, including the reality that these types of racist incidents have occurred in the SC service industry for DECADES but there has been very little recourse or outrage by white community members until now. The white neoliberal ethos of Santa Cruz has produced the very conditions for this kind of racist discrimination and violence, and though Alderwood certainly must be held accountable, so too should the “outraged” white community that has historically been complicit with this kind of exploitation and harm of our BIPOC service industry workers.

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