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The Willows Inn Closes After Abuse Allegations and Lawsuits

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After numerous allegations of sexual harassment and lawsuits alleging wage theft, Willows InnA world-famous restaurant and inn on a small island in the Pacific Northwest has closed.

An April 2021 New York Times study found that Willows workers faced verbal and sexual harassment, were required to work 16 to 18 hour days, and were subjected to sexist and racist language. It was revealed that he said he was bullied at The owner denied those allegations, but after the Times report, 137 employees filed a class action lawsuit against the restaurant over working conditions, wage theft and wrongful dismissal.It was Settlement $1.37 million this year.the previous suit Settlement For $600,000 in 2020, with the proviso that plaintiffs will not speak to or respond to the press.

Property owner Tim McEvoy said last week that Willows won’t reopen for the 2023 season and that the property will likely be donated to charity and sold, according to several former employees at Labor. told the person

on monday, lighthouse mission The ministry, a Christian community service agency for homeless people based in nearby Bellingham, Washington, said in a statement that $2 million in property had been donated, and that the organization was committed to building and land “best practices.” “It’s too early to know if the potential new owners want to operate the restaurant and hotel rooms in a similar way or if they want to do something different,” he said. The statement added: report Seattle Times on Monday. )

The restaurant’s longtime chef, Blaine Wetzel, made Willows famous when she arrived in 2010. Noma, in Copenhagen, as a proponent of chef Rene Redzepi’s elegant, rustic, hyperlocal culinary style. Mr. Wetzel has become a star, and the ingredients in his multi-course his tasting his menu are foraged, caught or grown on idyllic Rumi Island.

A Times investigation revealed a darker truth. Restaurant employees say Wetzel’s behavior is abusive and insane, and his language is obscene and sometimes racist, preventing women from reaching top positions in the kitchen. said. Inn workers, many of whom were young women living on the island, said they were pressured to drink alcohol, use illegal drugs, and have sex with male kitchen staff and visiting chefs.

The New York Times also found that Mr. Wetzel not only regularly ordered food from farms on the mainland, but also dispatched employees to Costco, Target and other supermarkets when he ran out of ingredients. .

Many employees quickly resigned, and island residents protested, chanting and waving signs at diners arriving at the inn, but the restaurant remained open until the 2021 season, ending last December. Wetzel’s wife, chef Daniela Soto-Innes, set up a new kitchen team for the 2022 season, which began in March, but the inn closed early due to reduced bookings. and served a final dinner the week before Thanksgiving.

Inn business entity Freshore LLC received federal payroll protection loans of $359,623 in 2020 and $270,309 in 2021. I forgave.

Neither McEvoy nor Wetzel responded to requests for confirmation or comment. (McEvoy’s family business, his McEvoy Oil, was founded in 1932 and was acquired in 2019 by Coleman Oil, one of his largest fuel distributors in the region.)

At a recent gastronomic conference in Mexico, Soto Inés said: announced She and Wetzel had a restaurant and farm in Nayarit, north of Puerto Vallarta.

According to plaintiffs’ attorney Toby Marshall, the remaining separate cases of wage theft and wrongful termination filed by the three former employees were “closed to the mutual satisfaction of all parties” as of last month. It has been resolved.”

The lawsuit also named Willows’ longtime general manager, Reed Johnson, who moved into the popular and upscale Friday Harbor House on San Juan Island this year. The restaurant’s executive chef, Jason Aldous, who worked at Willows from 2013 to 2015, was arrested in June. Paid Multiple counts related to sexual relations with underage female employees whom he and his wife invited to live in the home.

The Willows was one of the main inspirations for the recent film The Menu, which explores the dark side of the culture of fine dining and celebrity chefs.

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