Six employees at a Bloomfield Hills steakhouse have walked off the job for fostering an alleged racist work environment. According to a lawsuit filed against Eddie Merlot’s and the restaurant’s general manager Curtis Nordeen, sous chef James Gaines, who is Black, and his co-workers claim they warned Nordeen in July that if he did not stop making racist comments, they would walk off the job. Instead, staff allege that Nordeen refused to change his behavior and offered workers a raise to stay.
Nordeen allegedly joked about shoving watermelon down the throats of Black children, mocked Sunday church hats worn by Black women, accusing Black customers of being on drugs, and made other racially charged commentary, according to the complaint. He’s also accused of implementing “Jim Crow segregation” by seating Black and white customers separately, according to the filing, saying he wanted Black servers to serve Black customers “because it made him feel more comfortable than having Caucasian servers do so.”
According to the Metro Times, Attorney Zach Runyan says that the restaurant seems to have sided with Nordeen and that during a historic labor shortage, he let the employees quit rather than stop the racist behavior. “Eddie Merlot’s should be more upset than anyone by Mr. Nordeen’s behavior, but that does not appear to be the case.” In response to the allegations, the restaurant (which operates locations in several states), released the following statement: “Eddie Merlot’s is a discrimination-free workplace. We take these allegations seriously and on advice of counsel, we have no further comment on this pending litigation.” The restaurant group did not comment on the status of Nordeen’s employment due to the pending litigation.
Community Kitchen returns to Saffron De Twah
Eater Award-winning restaurant Saffron De Twah’s Saffron Community Kitchen is hosting a Community Day this Friday <-on Friday, January 14, with a pay-what-you-want Moroccan-style döner kebabs, with free meals going to those in need. Traditional batbout (Moroccan flatbread) and all the fixings will be made in-house, including greens, donated by Planted Detroit. Meals can be picked up and distributed by anyone. The popular halal restaurant is partnering with US Food Rescue Detroit for the event, which will kick off aneight-day-long Chicken Sandwich Week during which chef Omar Anani will be churning out his popular Moroccan chicken sandwiches. All proceeds from Friday’s kebab sales will go toward Community Kitchen efforts.
COVID-related closures spike in Metro Detroit
Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co. has shuttered its cafe indefinitely following a COVID-19 outbreak that, according to a report by the Metro Times, infected at least nine of 15 employees. The abrupt closure follows a battle between workers and company ownership over COVID protocols. The outbreak and subsequent closure illustrates the dire state of the restaurant industry, which is besieged by temporary closings in metro Detroit and across the country. Downtown mainstay Anchor Bar shuttered temporarily as of last week. Over the holidays, as the omicron variant began to spread widely throughout Michigan, several establishments closed their doors due to outbreaks and to respond to burnout among overworked employees. Among those that closed temporarily were Checker Bar, Selden Standard, Grand Trunk Pub, Checker Bar, Flowers of Vietnam, Sister Pie, Baobab Fare, Detroit Vegan Soul, Standby and the Skip.
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