UPDATE: Red Mill Burgers Owner John Shepherd Apologizes for Sexist, Transphobic Online Comments and Resigns

Comments

1
Is this the burger joint with the scantily clad women in its ads? I pretty much would have avoided them just for that.
2
Wait, Schmader is boycotting? I'm sure he CA help influence others, but isn't he a vegetarian?
3
This is pretty gross stuff, but I gotta say, those meme/cartoons don't really "compare trans women to dogs"...c'mon.
4
All disparaging commentary about the Seattle City Council if perfectly appropriate.
7
O, boo hoo. Did someone get their feelings hurt?

The guy is entitled to his opinions. Remember, this is a free country. The real ass hole thing to do is punish the workers at his burger places by boycotting them. You boycott them and they will cut staff hours. So way to go boycotters. You are now hurting the low wage workers you espouse to love and care for so much.
8
@7 - Indeed it is a free country, so people have the right to stand up for their beliefs and not support a business who's owner is a dick. There are loads of hamburger joints in Seattle. If Red Mill went kaput (which it won't), someone else would start a new place where it used to exist. I've had a problem with Red Mill for years...mostly because the employees are jerks and they still don't take credit cards. Anti-trans and woman rants seal the deal. No more Red Mill for me.
9
@7, In a shocking twist, it turns out *everyone* is entitled to their opinions, not just bigots.
11
@7 let me guess, Trump supporter?
12
I used to like their burgers, but honestly their Totem House fish tastes like chunks of deep fried rubber, so no loss there. I wonder how much of the cash that flows through his highly lucrative burger joints winds up getting laundered? Sexism and trans-phobia leave an nasty aftertaste. Thankfully Seattleites have many alternatives. I've been meaning to head down to the ID to try those fabled Laotian sausages...
13
@7: "Free speech" means the freedom to state one's opinion, not to be free from the consequences of said opinion.

Yes, if Red Mill were to close, the demand for burgers would be undiminished, so it would shift to the myriad other burger options in Seattle. It's a zero sum game. His workers could go work at those new places.
14
Ugh, Red Mill's food is sub par already so this does not help. Say what you want about the City Council but the bullshit reposts and sexism is fucked up. Well, I am not boycotting unless you consider my not going for close to 8 years a continued boycott. Zippy Burgers, Dicks FTW's!!
15
@13 Wow, glad you think switching jobs is so easy. Prick.
17
@15:

And glad you think it's okay to hide behind the specious cover of "think of the poor workers" to defend bigotry, misogyny, and transphobia. Douchebucket.
18
@10 What don't you understand about free speech? You are allowed to offend people. Period.
19
@18, you are allowed to offend people but you need to be ready for those people to choose to act differently because of what you say, namely, boycotting your business. The First Amendment means only that the government cannot try to muzzle you.
20
@17 Just taking a page out of the ole liberal playbook. Figure hiding behind poor people works well for them, so why not?
21
I thought the Bruce Jenner's dog post was pretty funny. What @3 said.
22
@1 Are you thinking of Carl's Jr? (They also own Hardee's, boycott away!)
23
A lot of people with garbage senses of humor probably think that Bruce Jenner's Dog post is pretty funny.
24
@15: The jobs have such a low wage because they're low skill and easy to get. As long as employment remains constant--i.e. someone is cooking and serving the food to service the undiminished demand for burgers/fries/shakes, the employees at Red Mill have no more "right" to the job than whoever will replace them at the less-objectionable Red Mill competition. Red Mill's loss is someone else's gain--why should I have any sympathy for those that choose to team up with hateful bigots?
26
Free speech is not always 'speech' and not always free. People can say any damn thing they want, but there can be a cost. This time his obnoxious spouting will cost him a little business.
27
@24: You must be very privileged to assume people can just change jobs instantly with no downside, and that they can pick and choose which jobs to take based on the boss' personal belief system, which they are probably not even privy to. Maybe you should check that.
28
"O, boo hoo. Did someone get their feelings hurt?"

Paulus: No, we just don't like bigots. They annoy us. They piss us off. People like you annoy and piss us off. We avoid you. Even straight guys like me avoid you, And thanks to The Stranger, many of us will now be avoiding Red Mill as well. More bacon for you and yours. Please eat a whole fucking shitload of it. It'll be better for your heart than what's in it right now.
29
@24 Wow, what a dick statement. People aren't choosing to team up with a bigot. They are trying to find employment close to their home that pays a reasonable wage.

30
I am definitely against these statements but I will still enjoy the burger.
32
@29: Once they know their owner is a bigot, every day is a choice to continue working for them. Food service jobs are present all through the city, the wages are all low.

@24: For the consumers of burgers/pizza/whatever: we have a myriad of other, non-bigoted choices. If I choose to eat at a non-Red Mill option, my reason doesn't matter to the Red Mill employee: they don't get my business, they don't get a tip. Someone else does. The net misery for the food workers is the same, as long as I don't decrease my overall frequency of eating out. Given that, it's most desirable that I choose places which aren't morally objectionable. The same amount of money being distributed, the same amount of food being consumed: just by different people. The workers at Red Mill are no more deserving of my money than any other burger place, but their employer understands only one language: that of profit and loss.
33
someone should decorate this place with the HEX OF OBSOLESCENCE thats been going around on facebook. the stickers are all over capitol hill
34
@20:

How about: because it still makes you sound like a douchebucket, no matter what your rationalization...
35
@8, who hires them?
36
I don't feel any of you know this man! He is not a bigot and he has built Red Mill from nothing. He is wonderful to his employees and people he loves. John has done incredible this for this city and for those around him. He gets heated when it comes to politics yes but his heart is made of gold and he would give you his shirt off his back if needed. His employees are treated with respect and kindness. The turn over rate at Red Mill is very low. He is not sexist or transphobic, I know this from many years of our relationship. Don't be so quick to judge with someone else's words the only show a fraction of what's on facebook.
37
Good God people. Any small business owner that speaks out against the problems in this neighborhood is going to get roasted. I can't defend any anti-trans, anti-gay comments made by anyone, but I've seen what happens here when someone takes a stand against the establishment. They're thrown under the bus at some point if they're not on point with the city council. I've watched this train wreck for a few months and it's definitely not about someone who has a deep dislike of people based on their gender identification. He's been speaking out against the drug camps across the street from his business. And now he's paying the price - as a former addict that doesn't want to see others suffer, now the recovered are being demonized.
38
Bruce Jenners Cat! Hilarious! I still say everyone should take their potty duties to the streets and gutters, just like they do in third world countries. That way all those folks can stop worrying about who is in The bathroom with their precious little "centers of the universe" so they can play with mommy and daddy's unlocked guns later. I cant speak to "misogynist vitriol" but I will tell you one thing, its the daily barrage of arrogant misandrist vitrol I see and deal with every day that is really starting to turn me into a proud misogynist. In educated circles we call that, "Irony".
39
@36:

What one says reflects on that person just as much as what they do, and both have consequences. Shepherd showed incredibly poor judgement in making his comments, and while his apology certainly sounds genuine, he is now burdened with the knowledge that many people will be much more skeptical of both his words and deeds going forward. All this is totally on his shoulders - he put it there all by himself and he now has to live with how it affects his reputation and standing in the community.
40
I have known John for over 20 years. He is one of the kindest men I have ever met. He has been like a father to my sisters children. He gave her girls all jobs when they were in high school and I can't even tell you how he helped my sister ( a single mother of 5 young children) when she was desperately in need of help. He is and has always been there for my sister and her girls. You just have to know John. He is passionate about his beliefs and his love for Seattle. He was down and out and built a very successful business. John speaks his mind and that is one of the things I respect so much about him. We disagree on things and that is ok. This is America and we all have a right to our opinion. John also has a unique since of humor. He is funny as hell. Believe me John is neither sexist or homo/trans phobic. We have a saying in our family. "John is just John". He has strong beliefs about what is right and wrong and he has no problem voicing those beliefs. In my opinion the stranger has defamed his character unfairly. He has apologized sincerely (owned his shit) and resigned his position. Don't punish Red Mill and their employees. I love you John and this is bull shit!
41
"In other posts, the user compared transgender women to dogs."

Jesus Christ. This should be removed or corrected.

The cartoons were offensive to be sure, but it compares gender identity to being confused about what species you are. The comparison is between gender and species--not between trans-women and dogs. The offensive part is that it conflates being transgendered with being confused. Just because the cartoon includes a dog and relates to the topic of trans-women, doesn't mean that it is comparing trans-women to dogs. That is just dumb.

I don't know whether it was lazy or if it was intentional and meant to make the cartoons seems extra offensive, but it should be corrected.
42
@40:
Believe me John is neither sexist or homo/trans phobic.
And yet he posted blatantly transphobic cartoons, designed explicitly to belittle and mock trans people like me and marginalize our needs. I think your assessment of his transphobia is not borne out by the facts.

John speaks his mind and that is one of the things I respect so much about him. [...] We have a saying in our family. "John is just John". He has strong beliefs about what is right and wrong and he has no problem voicing those beliefs.
This kind of thing always rings hollow to me. Donald Trump "speaks his mind" and "has no problem voicing his beliefs", but that by itself doesn't make him worthy of respect if the beliefs he holds are ignorant, bigoted, or otherwise problematic.

I think it's great that Mr. Shepherd has been a positive force in your family's lives. However, by contributing to the prevailing culture that vilifies and ridicules trans people, he has not been a positive force in mine. If he's truly as kind as you say he is, he will consider the impact that his words have had, and work to be better in the future.

@41: Agreed, that was way off base and mars an otherwise solid post by giving critics an easy straw man to knock down. We have to make sure we get our opponents' bigotry correct so that we can more effectively counter it. :)
43
@39 And now what? He's out of a job - is he allowed to work again or will you and your ilk brand the future employer someone who enables bigots and boycott that business as well?
44
@ 42 - I think it also just impairs the ability to combat that type of thing. It is possible that Mr. Shepherd--and others who post similar things--thought that cartoon was just a silly, funny, harmless thing. And just didn't think about what the basis of the joke really is. If you tell someones who is merely thoughtless that the cartoon is bad because it compares trans-women to dogs, they will just shrug that off, because that is obviously not true. You aren't elevating the discourse or helping anybody if you are yelling things that are patently false--even if your intent is noble. That is a disservice. It seems like this type of thing is increasingly common at the Stranger lately, and it never gets corrected.
45
At the very least he owned it. Kudos for that if nothing else.
46
It's annoyingly difficult to find reasonable people in this city who can disagree with some of the policies of Mayor Murray and the council without being complete loons. As a person who disagrees generally with the way we're addressing homelessness and addiction without being a homophobic, sexist, classist fuck, people like this guy drive me nuts. He gives trolls a field day and opinion writers a poster child to tar folks who might have well-intended alternative views and who would never dream of having those thoughts, let alone giving voice to them. Personally I am glad he got nailed for this - he deserves it. He certainly does whatever political point of view he may have no justice by behaving that way. Yucko.
47
Red Mills are still in business?
48
@43:

Out of a job? You're joking, right? He's co-owner of a small fast-food franchise, that means he's his own employer, and he basically fired himself. But seriously, do you honestly think his other co-owners - all members of his immediate family BTW - are going to cut him off, just because he "stepped down"? He's still going to earn a healthy income from his investment, he's just not going to be the public figurehead of the business for awhile, so really, I wouldn't go shedding any tears for his inability to "work" for the foreseeable future.
49
He "stepped down" because his co-owners told him he'd damn well better do so, so the business can recover from his stupidity. But as Comte says, he's not going to be on the streets.
50
@48 & 49 - I can't believe this has to be explained, but let me spell it out for you. If this were some mid level employee who wasn't in a position of privilege and everyone demanded Red Mill fired his ass - where would he be? Is he allowed to work again or are future employers nothing more than bigot enablers?
51
I wonder how many people here still order book and goods or watch TV on Amazon?
52
@50:

Thanks for setting up a nice, tasty, bacon-flavored straw man there! But, to your completely hypothetical non-relevant point: if this had been some mid level employee and they had made the kind of bigoted comments Mr. Shepherd did - YOU BET we would expect their ass to be summarily fired, because they would have fucking deserved it, just as much as Shepherd did.

But, go right ahead, please 'splain to us all again why people who make patently offensive comments should get a free pass just because they have a job. And then we can point you to the literally innumerable examples all over the Internet of racists, bigots, homophobes & misogynists losing their jobs because they said something just as derogatory.

Being a raging douche-nozzle doesn't grant you special employment rights - quite the opposite, in point of fact.
53
Red Mill burgers have always been, even at their very best, really just average, though highly overrated by Seattlites desperate for a local food to brag about, I guess. Now we discover Red Mill's owner always has been a total asshole (with brown clinging to the edges). So he "quits" with a crocodile tears apology after offending much of the community.. How does an owner "quit" a business? Who really believes he's going to stop enjoying its profits? So, Seattle, are you gonna' keep hypocritically lining up for those overrated Red Mil burgers?
54
Calling people names is bad. But if all the men on the council voted against something that a local female business owner didn't agree with and she called them all dickheads or assholes or pigs, there would be zero issue. She might even get some "right ons!" from the congregation.

Dude shouldn't lose his job. If you think this creates fewer sexists in the world, you're wrong. See if his business suffers with him still there. If it does, that's what he gets. Sexists and trans-phobes are assholes. And we can and should expose their assholery. But firing the dude? Solving nothing, teaching nothing, changing nothing. Pure authoritarian, animal-brain vengeance. Not justice, not change. Just vengeance.
55
The city is hauling dead bodies out of the bushes across the street from his burger shack and that gets less attention than a nasty online rant. Priorities.
56
@54:

Again, nobody fired him - unless you consider his "stepping down", self-termination. He's still making money on his franchises. And even if it was a situation of him being fired, why shouldn't he be? People get fired all the time over a lot less than this. In fact, in most states people work under what's called "employment at-will" provisions, which means they can be let go for literally ANY reason whatsoever, the only difference being whether it was "with cause" (the employee royally fucked up = fired) or "without cause" (the employee was laid-off for no fault of their own).

Shepherd fucked up most royally, and even though, as a co-owner of the business he can't be fired in the normal sense of the word, he CAN nevertheless still be held accountable for his words and deeds, and his fellow co-owners, namely, his family, have every right to tell him to step aside and STFU for awhile, because it's THEIR business too and he's doing serious damage to it.
57
BTW: Even if he's "stepped down" and is "turning over control and operations" over to his siblings, unless he's selling his share of the company to them, he's still the owner and he's still collecting the profits from the business and taking them to the bank.

This shows he's smart enough to make a PR move. It does not mean eating at Red Mill isn't still putting money in his transphobic pocket just like before.
58
@57 finally nails it.

Who wrote his apology for him? It sure doesn't sound like the same writer of all the other samples of his ranting. If he's too dumb to realize that publicly and repeatedly attaching his name to ugly vitriol might not be a good move for the owner of a local business in famously hyper-liberal Seattle, is he smart enough to write in two completely different voices? Or does he just get drunk at night and post?
59
Call me picky, but I'm not a big fan of the phrase "garbage people", even for people who hold bigoted views. Doesn't really seem journalistic, even for the Stranger.
60
I'm pretty sure Red Mill isn't a collective....
62
The letter doesn't have the polish it would coming from a PR pro. If I had to guess, I'd say it was written by Babe, Michael and their lawyer and presented to him with an ultimatum: Either send it out under your name and step down, or face litigation to have you forcibly removed. So, no, @45, he likely doesn't deserve "kudos" for "owning it."

Ansel: how about another update after checking with the women of the council to see if they actually got the apologies he said were forthcoming?

63
How do you reconcile your bigotry while having a gay sibling?