Founders re-opens Detroit taproom Thursday after racial discrimination scandal
After closing late last year following fallout from a racial discrimination lawsuit, Founders Brewing Co.reopened its Detroit taproom Thursday morning.
The company boasted about its new charitable giving platform, a new general manager and a collaboration with Detroit at Work, a program that trains city residents to work in the hospitality industry. The program also works with companies to make positions more accessible for those who have criminal records.
The owners of Founders say they will donate their income from the Detroit taproom to Detroit charities for the next three years, keeping a promise they made publicly in November.
Co-founder and CEO Mike Stevens hoped Thursday's re-opening is "a big old party."
"Last fall we stated that we wouldn't be re-opening until we were really, fully 100 percent ready and we stuck to that. We've got the right leadership and management in place now," he told The Detroit News Tuesday. "We feel very confident about that."
The Cass Corridor bar and restaurant has hired general manager is Emily Faulkner, who has previously worked in management positions at TopGolf in Auburn Hills and at MGM Grand Detroit.
About an hour into opening Thursday morning the taproom was about a third full, with several seats taken at the bar and a few large tables having lunch.
A note on the menu welcomed customers back and thanked visitors for "sticking with us during our temporary closure."
Matt Sabin of White Lake was in the Detroit area and checked Google to see when exactly Founders would reopen.
"Coincidentally it happened to be today so I stopped in to have a beer," he chose a KBS Espresso Stout and took a seat at the bar. He said before the closing last fall he came to Founders "fairly often."
"I really like Founders, I enjoy the beer, the camaraderie, the staff."
Regarding the discrimination lawsuit and backlash from the closing, Sabin said he thinks the beer makers are taking a step in the right direction.
"Actions speak louder than words," he said. "I was pretty concerned early on when they seemed to kind of deny everything, but then the depositions and things came out but it seems like they're moving in the right directions."
"From this point forward it's let's get to Detroit, let's have some fun and hopefully the community comes out and supports us heavily because we're going to stay true to our word and kick that effort back into the community," said Stevens Tuesday.
He said with the Detroit at Work program, the individuals trained in the taproom will not only be able to work at Founders, but could also take their newly learned skills to other restaurants in the area, many which are often looking for skilled help.
As for the other charity partnerships, Stevens said they're still in "phase one" of those relationships and they'll continue to move forward after the taproom opens and starts making money so they can kick it back to the nonprofits.
Former employee Tracy Evans filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the craft beer giant. Details came to a head in fall of 2019, and Founders closed the Detroit taproom and hired Detroit-based Thomas Group Consulting to help with the public relations mess. The employee suit was settled and the details were not made public.
“Since Founders brought me on board last November, I’ve hit the ground running in helping them establish partnerships in Detroit," said Buzz Thomas in a press release. "It’s clear that the employees’ hearts and minds are in the right place. I have no doubt in my mind that their efforts will make a significant impact in the City of Detroit and in the brewing industry by establishing a program that will serve as the model.”
Stevens said after news of the lawsuit went beyond Michigan they did not see a dip in sales nationally. Several Detroit-area bars and retailers did take Founders' products off their shelves. Stevens says he thinks those businesses wanted to "hit the pause button" and see how Founders would react to the issues.
"There was some PR out there that required us to kind of look at things and approach the markets a little differently ... Detroit was obviously the hub of the concern," Stevens said, adding that through time Founders did a great job addressing those concerns.
"The proof is in the pudding ... we're coming out with more than enough of that proof," he said. "We're really a great company and we really want to do great things for Detroit, and we will."
Founders Brewing Co.'s Detroit taproom opens at 11 a.m. Thursday at 456 Charlotte in Detroit with new beer selections, an updated food menu and bottles of its Mothership Series and Brewed in Detroit beers available for purchase.
Call (313) 335-3440 or visit foundersbrewing.com.
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