WEST TOWN — The West Town-based Fifty/50 Restaurant Group will no longer purchase Founders Brewing Co. at any of its 18 restaurants and bars across Chicago in light of the beer company’s racial discrimination controversy.
Fifty/50 also donated 100 percent of recent Founders sales to Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program, a Chicago group that works with black and Hispanic girls in Chicago and northwest Indiana.
“We pride ourselves on working with companies that champion their employees and uplift their communities,” said Scott Weiner, Fifty/50 co-founder and co-owner.
Before Fifty/50 made the decision to sever its ties with Founders, it had planned a three-keg Founders Tap Takeover at Roots Handmade Pizza, 1924 W. Chicago Ave., in West Town.
Instead of canceling the Friday event, Fifty/50 donated proceeds from Founders’ 2018 Canadian Breakfast Stout, 2018 Kentucky Breakfast Stout and 2019 Kentucky Breakfast Stout — about $3,000 — to Polished Pebbles.
“We booked this Founders event months ago, and we want to turn their negatives into positives for our community,” Weiner said.
On Monday, Fifty/50 spokesman Dave Andrews said Roots still has some beer left over from all three seasonal kegs. Additional sales will go to Polished Pebbles.
Tracy Evans, a former manager who worked at Founders’ Detroit and Grand Rapids locations, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the company in 2018, Metro Times reported.
In the lawsuit, Evans alleged “a racist internal corporate culture” in which some white coworkers exhibited “blatant” racism, including repeatedly using the “N-word” around him.
Evans said he was fired while preparing to make a second formal complaint.
The lawsuit, which made headlines when it was filed in 2018, sparked controversy last month during trial depositions when Evans’ former manager, Dominic Ryan, told Evans’ attorney, Jack Schulz, he did not know if Evans is black or white.
“OK, are you aware Tracy is black?” Schulz asked in the deposition.
“What do you mean by that?” Ryan said.
“Are you aware Tracy is African American?” Schulz said.
“I’m not sure of his lineage so I can’t answer that,” Ryan said.
When asked if President Barack Obama or Michael Jordan are black, Ryan said he did not know because he had never met either of them.
This is not the first time the corporate culture at Founders has sparked backlash.
Last year, the brewery upset the LGBTQ community and its supporters when the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce endorsed Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Michigan Republican who led the anti-gay-marriage push in the state, for governor.
While some Founders fans called on the brewery to cut ties with the chamber over the endorsement of an anti-gay candidate, they ultimately stood by the chamber, saying, “We’re into beer — not political endorsements.”
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