Founders closing Detroit taproom until further notice amid controversy

Posted at 8:08 AM, Oct 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-31 16:10:54-04

UPDATE: Founders Brewing Co. and Tracy Evans have reached a settlement in the racial discrimination lawsuit

Original story below:

Founders Brewing Co. is closing its Detroit taproom until further notice.

In an email to event ticketholders, the brewing company said the CBS bottle pickup and tapping party will not be happening Friday as scheduled.

The move comes after criticism related to a deposition that was leaked in a racial discrimination lawsuit earlier this week.

"In light of the recent events and, more importantly, out of concern of our employees’ safety, we have decided to close the Detroit taproom from Friday, October 25 until further notice," Founder said in its email to ticketholders.

Tracy Evans filed the racial discrimination lawsuit last October. He was the events and promotions manager for Founders' locations in Grand Rapids and Detroit. He said he was the only minority manager at Founders, and said co-workers used racial slurs around him and other employees.

It grew to national attention this week when a leaked deposition showed that the brewery's general manager for the Detroit taproom claimed he didn't know the man who is suing the brewery is black.

In the leaked deposition from the Detroit Metro Times, Evans' Attorney, Jack Schulz, asked Founders' Manager Dominic Ryan, "Are you aware Tracy is African American?"

Ryan allegedly responded, according to the leaked deposition, "I'm not sure of his lineage so I can't answer that."

Later on in the deposition, Schulz asked, "I guess your testimony is you have no idea if Tracy is a minority, if he's African-American?"

"I don't know Tracy's lineage, so I can't speculate on whether he's...if he's from African or not," Ryan is alleged to have responded.

Founders responded through its attorney, saying in part, "neither Mr. Evans' race nor retaliation played any part in Founders' decision to end Mr. Evans' employment."

Read the full statement from Founders here:

"Founders will soon be providing its full response to Mr. Evans’ claims when it files a motion to dismiss the case in its entirety. This motion will include documentary proof that neither Mr. Evans’ race nor retaliation played any part in Founders’ decision to end Mr. Evans’ employment. I would ask that you reserve judgment or comment on this case until you actually see the evidence presented by the parties.

In the event that you will not, I understand that a person unfamiliar with most of the facts in this case, and a person unfamiliar with the obligations that individuals are under when they give deposition testimony, might perceive Mr. Ryan’s statement as noteworthy. It is not. First, as I doubt you’re aware, Mr. Evans himself has testified – unequivocally and under oath – that Mr. Ryan is not racist and was his friend; so whatever point Mr. Evans is trying to make by leaking deposition testimony to you is undone by his own words. Second, this testimony is not Founders’ defense in this case as you allege. Founders evaluated and decided to terminate Mr. Evans based only on his job performance. Mr. Evans’ poor job performance will be apparent when Founders files its upcoming motion. Third, through this testimony, Mr. Ryan was simply saying that he does not assume anything about individuals’ race or ethnicity unless they tell him that information. While it might be acceptable to speculate about this type of thing in casual conversation, Mr. Ryan was not having a casual conversation. He was under oath when he made these statements. As all deponents are instructed, Mr. Ryan was directed not to guess, assume or speculate in his deposition. This is the reason for his answer.

The fact that Mr. Evans is selectively leaking this type of information to you indicates that, unlike Founders, he has no evidence to support his position in this case. Founders looks forward to its day in court, and, now that discovery has closed, it is more confident than ever that it will prevail."

The Michigan brewer says it will be issuing refunds to all CBS bottle ticket holders as soon as possible.

View the full email to ticketholders below:

"It’s with sincere regret that we share with you that the CBS bottle pickup and CBS tapping party at tour Detroit location won’t be happening, as scheduled.

In light of the recent events and, more importantly, out of concern of our employees’ safety, we have decided to close the Detroit taproom from Friday, October 25 until further notice. We greatly appreciate your enthusiasm for the introduction of this year’s CBS. We will be issuing full refunds to all CBS bottle ticket holders as soon as possible. As a reminder, CBS will be widely available in market beginning on November 1.

To be clear, the Grand Rapids CBS release will go on as scheduled.

Again, we are so regretful to share this news and appreciate your understanding and support of Founders. Thank you.”