By Ethan Gregory Dodge
A prominent downtown San Jose restaurateur has resigned amid accusations of sexual assault, the latest in a sweeping #MeToo movement in breweries and bars.
“My actions and gross misconduct in the past have hurt too many and my absolute apologies to ALL,” wrote Ryan Summers, owner of the beer bar and vegan eatery Good Karma Artisan Ales & Café and Pizza Flora. “These actions were inexcusable and I own them entirely. I am so incredibly sorry.”
Summers, who has owned the brewery since at least 2006, said he is looking at how the staff of both restaurants might take over ownership. He’s also planning to move out of the apartment where he lived above the brewery.
The #MeToo movement has swept into the craft beer industry — toppling owners at taprooms across the country and the Bay Area, including several in Oakland.
The CEO and founder of San Diego-based Modern Times Beer resigned Tuesday night, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. An assistant brewer accused of misconduct at Oakland’s Original Pattern Brewing also resigned. Humble Sea in Santa Cruz confirmed a brewer at the company was fired in the past after being arrested for assaulting another employee, the newspaper reported.
It all started with a single question posted by a woman in an Instagram story: “Is anyone else experiencing sexist comments?” A storm of stories relating to sexism, misogyny, and even sexual assault in the beer industry ensued in the following days and weeks. Brienne Allan, the female brewer from Salem, Massachusetts who posed the question, has allowed the survivors’ stories to occupy space on her Instagram profile ever since.
The survivors are from all over the United States and beyond. But just this week, craft beer’s #MeToo movement came to downtown San Jose. Summers faced a litany of allegations including verbal, physical and sexual assault before resigning from the daily operations of the establishment Sunday.
Summers is accused of what appears to be a pattern of hiring women whom he was sexually attracted to, gaining their confidence as a mentor in the industry and luring them to his apartment above the establishment, sometimes intoxicated, and taking advantage of them. He allegedly asked intrusive questions about his employees’ sex lives, according to the social media posts, leading to a toxic environment where gossip freely flowed. One accusation states he drunkenly asked a female co-worker to run away with him. Another woman claims to have been groped by Summers at a wedding of a mutual friend when she was just 22 and was going through a very recent break up to which she opened up to Summers about.
In addition to the sexual misconduct, multiple stories cite instances of angered verbal abuse toward employees for simple mistakes. Multiple stories cited an instance in which Summers threw a phone at an employee. The mantra went that you weren’t a real Good Karma employee until you had cried in the bathroom or the walk-in refrigerator.
The allegations can be found in a new Instagram account called Embolden Act Advance dedicated to “anonymously sharing stories of harassment, misogyny, & abuse primarily in the alcohol & hospitality industry.” Multiple posts accuse Summers of harassment and sexual abuse, one saying it’s been happening for over a decade.
Summers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Two days before his resignation, Summers posted a public statement apologizing for the environment which he created, saying that it would “change immediately.”
He provided a list of actions to enact such change including instituting implicit bias training, “staff led hiring,” and a peer based communication system “ensuring anonymity and safety without the fear of repercussion or retaliation.” He also said he would be enrolling in an anger management course.
Despite these promises, followers on social media claimed real change couldn’t be instituted with Summers still in the picture. In his resignation, Summers says the community “demanded” it. Summers praised employees of both establishments, calling them “the strongest and most amazing people I know.”
“Over the last five days, staff have had to deal with too much damnation and negativity associated with me and I couldn’t be more regretful and sorry,” Summers wrote, asking the brewery’s patrons to show the staff love and respect through the transition. “Please be kind and support them as they recover from the hardships my actions have cost.”
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This article was originally published by The San José Spotlight.