A restaurant in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, lost over 20 employees this week because the boss saw no wrong in wanting to serve racist-themed cocktails.
Mela Kitchen restaurant owner Donald Hoffman came into the restaurant on Thursday to announce the newest cocktail the establishment would serve that week, “The Caucasian,” according to former server Emily Kate Hessler. He then told those who found it offensive to “buckle up” because next week, the restaurant would serve “The Negro” cocktail.
“The Caucasian” is a different name for the white Russian cocktail, combining vodka, Kahlúa and cream.
Many employees found the cocktails’ names offensive and expressed their concern to Hoffman in an email the next day, including Hessler and former front-of-house manager Megan Dietz. According to the Gettysburg Times, Dietz told the owner that the staff members planned to walk off by 4 p.m. if he didn’t address their concerns.
“I am sorry you are offended,” the restaurant owner allegedly responded to Dietz. He reportedly added that he saw the walkout as a threat.
Hoffman said he would consider changing that name while telling her she was “free to walk out” but warned her that she wouldn’t be rehired nor eligible for unemployment since she was quitting.
In a Facebook post, Hessler described Hoffman’s reaction as inappropriate and unprofessional, adding that the owner fired some employees while encouraging others to walk if they had an issue.
The woman told Hoffman that they would continue to protest but was threatened that he would have state police remove them from the premise.
In the comments section of a Facebook post deleted Monday, Hoffman attempted to defend himself, saying he wasn’t a “sexist,” “bigot,” or “racist,” adding the fact that he’s on the board of multiple charities.
“I have never been accused of what has been stated here because it simply is not true,” Hoffman said.
Hessler told News Onyx that she and other employees, including ones that have worked for Hoffman at other establishments who came forward, have endured abuse from him on many levels — like sexual abuse. She said the racist cocktails were “the breaking point” for her.