Jeremy Tooker, The Bay Area Coffee Communities' Disowned Family Member
Update #3 (1/21/18): We got word from the Boss Barista Podcast about the lawsuit and where it is now: "Last week, Jeremy Tooker and Four Barrel settled the lawsuit brought against them by eight former employees. But there's still work to do. Jodi and Tal promised to divest—they haven't yet. Instead, they fired the majority of their production team. So we have a big ask of you: reach out to the cafes you know continuing to serve Four Barrel and ask them to DEMAND DIVESTMENT BY FEBRUARY 15TH. Demand transparency, demand that shares of the company be given to employees (not sold), and demand a timeline. If you need a form letter to send to your local cafes, we got you covered."
Update #2 (1/09/18): Coffee roasters, friends of the business, and now wholesalers have completely dropped the brand in all aspects of their operation. We are most proud to report that most of the brands who've written letters about the incident have reached for their support to the women assaulted by Tooker.
Update #1 (1/08/18): The (now) co-owners of Four Barrel have posted a follow-up to their community letter they wrote Saturday. As of right now, the company will now be dropped, sold to the employees and will re-open as "The Tide," take a look below:
None of these women are to blame: we're proud of their bravery in the face of fear. But we need to ask—the "coffee community" for many years said nothing. Let's discuss.
*This story was revised 01/08/18 with updated language.
News broke just yesterday that Jeremy Tooker, Four Barrel Coffee's founder, is being sued for sexual assault and harassment from former female employees. Alleging he sexually assaulted multiple women, harassed others and created a toxic workplace culture for Four Barrel’s female staff members.
In this case, 8 women stood up to Tooker and took this matter straight to San Francisco superior court, they allege that the incidents where Tooker assaulted a female employee in a hotel room; grabbed another female employee’s neck with enough force to cause soreness; and threatened to fire a staff member for speaking to a former Four Barrel employee. Tooker liked to engage in activities that made him a detriment rather than a progressive. Everything from company ragers where he would drink excessively and also yelling at current employee's on the floor in front of customers (we've witnessed first hand.) Where Four Barrel falls into tacky misogyny, was their apparent lack of respect toward women—mugs adorned with “F— it” and “Suck it,” and secret menu items like the “Dickens Cider,” meant to sound as if the customer said “dick inside her.”
The Chronicle reported and broke the story on Friday, adding,"The Chronicle interviewed 14 former employees over two months, 10 of whom spoke on the record regarding the workplace culture at the coffee company. All 10 said both Geren and Mor were aware of Tooker’s behavior yet did not address complaints in an official capacity." The Chronicle even stating, "If Blue Bottle was the high-end Bay Area coffee roaster with a clean-cut image, Four Barrel was the coffee outfit embracing San Francisco’s counterculture history."
Strong women making it apparent that they weren't going to stand for this is incredible. It's downright up-lifting.
Though this fact of Tooker's was no secret in the coffee community. Various other coffee chains, past employees, and insiders to the world of coffee all knew about these allegations. For years. Yes, you read right. Again, these are women are so incredibly strong for coming to the proper authorities and putting scum like him in his place. But as leaders of an incredibly niche community, why wasn't action brought sooner? A inside source close to the community stated to us that, "we've all known about, it was no big secret. He was incredibly disrespectful to women."
“Jeremy’s behavior has been an open secret for years. But it’s always been kind of shrugged off,” Umeko Motoyoshi, Sudden Coffee owner, who worked for Four Barrel from 2013 to 2015, told The Chronicle. “A lot of people were afraid of hurting their careers by saying something.”
The lawsuit really sparked the fire at the companies past two holiday parties. According to the lawsuit, Tooker made lewd comments during speeches to staff members at these parties, as well as simulated sexual acts with employees and forced attendees to play a game called “kiss or slap,” wherein Tooker would approach employees and force them to either kiss him or slap him. Which is literally like W.T.F.
One female victim alleges in the lawsuit that Tooker also attempted to kiss her at Four Barrel’s “family night music show” anniversary party at Smiley’s Saloon in Bolinas on Oct. 8, 2015. At one point, grabbing the back of her head. One week after telling her manager, Brett Whitman, about the incidents, she was called into Whitman’s office and was told she was fired because she “was not a good fit” for the company, according to the lawsuit. We won't go into the gruesome detail of each victim's time with Tooker but here is the full report of the lawsuit.
And where was HR in all of this? Seeing that the coffee roaster was indeed a corporation? Reportedly any complaints made were often dismissed as the HR rep was inheretly close to Tooker.
As the coffee community "reals" from this news, owners of various roasters have commented on their take of this. Most notably Josey Baker, The Mill's co-owner alongside Tooker. In an open letter to their community and customer, Baker states, "I am appalled and outraged by Jeremy Tooker’s unacceptable behavior that was reported by the SF Chronicle. I am deeply pained to know that women have been harmed by his actions. With every account of abuse, especially this news that hits close to home, I am reckoning with a terrible truth that women have long known: that sexual harassment, violence and gender bias are rampant, and all too often happen with impunity.
Other roasters have also made their thoughts clear with various social media posts including but not limited to Sightglass coffee:
Currently, as of time of publishing, there are no set dates for court or any other legal proceedings but we will update this story further with any new information.
A statement from Bob Cut:
To keep it short: women make the world run. Our staff (who are majority female) make our business the best to its full ability. Daily reporting, art, business—it's incredible to watch. We full recognize the talent of our female staff and writers and support an environment where they feel allowed and able to achieve whatever they want in this world.
// Photo via Eater SF