June 24, 2021

Island Residents Protest at the Willows Inn After Workplace Allegations

About two hours into the protest, a man and a woman came out of the restaurant and got into a heated exchange with protesters, with the man yelling an expletive at the crowd. Some protesters yelled to them, “Enjoy that exploitation” and “You have no backbone.” In response, the man said, “Prove it,” presumably referring to the accusations in the Times article.

According to three people who have worked at the restaurant, and who requested anonymity for fear of professional consequences, 10 staff members — nearly half of the total — resigned soon after that report was published; hundreds of reservations were canceled, and those customers’ deposits, usually in the realm of $500, were refunded with no comment.

Local businesses that made custom products for the Willows — Camber Coffee, Constant Crush winery and Wander Brewing — said they had immediately ended their collaborations.

Loganita Farm has long been the cornerstone of Mr. Wetzel’s claim that he cooked only with ingredients from Lummi Island. Though he often referred to Loganita as “our” farm, it has never been part of the Willows and is separately owned by Steve McMinn, a former Willows investor.

In a phone interview, Mr. McMinn said he sympathized with the former employees but considered the protest “a tempest in a teapot.” He said Loganita would continue to grow vegetables for the restaurant. “I like producing local ingredients and local jobs,” he said.

Mary von Krusenstiern, the head farmer, worked on the farm for nine years and has lived in the area her whole life. Although Loganita was not implicated in any of the sourcing allegations, she resigned a few days after the allegations were published.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/29/dining/willows-inn-protests-lummi-island.html

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