Last month, Buckman brewery and deli West Coast Grocery Company was under fire for how it handled a sexual misconduct incident between two of its employees. Now, the victim and the brewery’s co-owner are trying to change the culture at the brewery and beyond.
On December 30, West Coast’s then-head brewer Owen Woods made an inappropriate comment to former server Sarah de Noyo, asking her to “show (him) her boobs.” After a long conversation with Woods, de Noyo posted about the incident on Instagram and reached out to West Coast Grocery. West Coast’s management team responded by meeting with both Woods and de Noyo individually, before meeting together on Thursday to talk to both parties. De Noyo gave herself until Saturday morning to hear a decision before she quit — It wasn’t until after she quit that she heard that Woods would be suspended and take a sexual misconduct seminar.
“One week suspension and a fucking class,” she wrote in an Instagram story caption with a screenshot of the email from management. Quickly, people across Portland agreed with de Noyo’s frustration, posting negative comments on Facebook and writing negative reviews of West Coast.
Meanwhile, co-owner Charlie Hyde IV was having his own second thoughts. It was his birthday, and his family was coming to town. Watching the social media backlash and talking with his family, he decided Woods would have to be fired, not suspended. “We all came to an agreement and decided he needed to go,” he says, but he doesn’t pretend the persistent comments were completely unrelated. “I don’t think any regular person could say social media backlash has no part in something like this.”
He fired Woods the next week, but it wasn’t until Hyde reached out and asked to get coffee that de Noyo agreed to talk with the folks at West Coast. He apologized, and the two started talking about sexism and entitlement. “Seeing through men’s bullshit is my specialty,” de Noyo says. “It felt genuine.”
During the conversation, the two started brainstorming ways to make West Coast a safer space for women, and to amplify the conversation surrounding sexual violence and harassment. The two decided that West Coast should give regular donations to sexual violence shelter Raphael House and release a beer as a secondary fundraiser. The team has also been promoting a seminar on sexual harassment in the beer industry February 4. “Sometimes, an event happens that opens your eyes... I felt like I let down someone from my family,” Hyde says. “I wanted West Coast Grocery to be a leader in this issue.”
West Coast Grocery made its first donation last month, funding a domestic violence survivor’s stay in the emergency shelter for 20 days; it’ll continue to donate periodically. Soon, the team will release its fundraiser beer, with a release party serving as a larger conversation about sexual violence and harassment; while de Noyo is no longer a West Coast Grocery server, she’s been actively involved in planning for these future events. “This conversation isn’t just industry-wide, it’s not just about Charlie,” de Noyo says. “Something bad didn’t need to happen for this change, but since it did, I’ve been able to talk to people in charge about what needs to change.”
• West Coast Grocery Company [Official]
• West Coast Grocery Company [Facebook]
• Sarah de Noyo’s Instagram Story [Instagram]
• Raphael House [Official]
• West Coast Grocery Fired Its Head Brewer for Sexual Harassment [EPDX]