OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Employees gathered in front of a popular Oakland restaurant Saturday night to demand its co-owner/chef step down amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment.
The allegations against Charlie Hallowell, one of the star chefs and restaurateurs of the Oakland culinary scene, surfaced in late December when he was forced to take a leave from the local restaurant chain he founded and co-owns that includes three popular Oakland restaurants — Pizzaiolo on Telegraph Ave., Boot and Shoe Service on Grand and Penrose.
Since that time tensions among staff members, former customers and local residents have escalated.
On Saturday, a group of employees carrying signs saying — “I’m Not Cooking Because I Stand In Solidarity With Women,” “Let’s Cook Justice” and “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” — stood in front of Boot and Service from opening until closing.
They talked with customers and others who walked by on the street among them was Tracey Weaver who owns a nearby store on Grand.
“You come the street and you see people standing there in front of their work place for a cause that matters to them,” she said. “It’s fabulous.”
Many of the employees called in sick so they could join the protest. On Sunday, three managers and three chefs handed in their resignations.
“We are out here to spread information and make people aware of what’s going on with our restaurant,” said hostess Georgia Staples.
Hallowell has not publicly commented on the latest protest.
He announced in December he was stepping away from the day-to-day operations at the three restaurants — but not resigning — in the wake of the allegations.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that “17 former employees had accused him in interviews with the paper of sexual harassment and pervasive verbal abuse.”
In an email to the paper, Hallowell wrote that was “deeply ashamed and saddened” by his behavior.
“I can see very clearly that I have participated in and allowed an uncomfortable workplace for women,” Hallowell wrote. “For this I am deeply ashamed and so very sorry. We have come to a reckoning point in the history of male bosses behaving badly, and I believe in this reckoning and I stand behind it. I understand that I cannot right the past wrongs, and at the same time, I take full responsibility for all of my actions.”
In a letter to his staff published on the Bay Area food blogging site Eater, Hallowell reiterated his apology.
“I am clear that my behavior as a business owner was unfiltered and often completely inappropriate. For this I am filled with shame and have deep regret for the damage I have caused,” he wrote. “I know that a written apology in no way justifies, excuses or “fixes” any harm I have caused.”