“Inappropriate” content on a website for Melvin Brewery, which has a location in Bellingham, has ignited a social media storm and brought to light potential “inappropriate” actions by an employee. The brewery has since offered online apologies and changed the page.
The contact page for Melvin Brewery (2416 Meridian St.) at melvinbrewing.com was titled “Touch Us” for more than a year, according to Melvin’s public statement released Thursday afternoon on the brewery’s Bellingham Facebook page. The page, which previously had other “Touch Us” references, has been retitled “Contact” to remove the reference.
“Over (a) year ago, we made a poor decision on our website in regard to contacting Melvin Brewing,” Melvin said in the public statement. “The Touch Us header was meant to be a silly joke but in hindsight it was inappropriate, and we want to extend a heartfelt apology to anyone who was offended. Please know that we may be irreverent and like to have a good time but in this case, we crossed the line.”
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The statement, however, did not address text at the top of the contact page that said, “Show us on the doll where Melvin Brewing touched you,” a header that was included at the top of the page Thursday and was captured in multiple screen grabs by viewers before it was removed.
In child sexual abuse investigations, dolls frequently are used to help facilitate expression or demonstration for children who cannot disclose abuse verbally.
Tara Almond included a picture of the page in a Facebook post Thursday afternoon, saying “Don’t take it personal I won’t be patronizing your brewery, Melvin Brewing Bellingham, but you shouldn’t have had expectations of our relationship. This is purely business because I happen to think child abuse and victimizing women isn’t funny.”
Almond was hardly the only social media user to express outrage.
Melvin co-owner Jeremy Tofte said he shouldered some of the blame for those comments, even though he said they were made by a subcontractor.
“As a Co-owner of Melvin Brewing, I’m disgusted with myself for not being more proactive in seeing or spending more time on my own website,” Tofte said in an email. “To see this comment that was made by a Melvin Brewing subcontractor, and brought to my attention from a third party is extremely frustrating. The thought of making a statement that undermines sexual abuse to children is not a joke and does not reflect how we feel at Melvin.”
A number of other changes were made to the website, Tofte said, including editing a statement that once read “Don’t drive if you’re drunk, though – that’s what your sober friends or pregnant partners were put on this earth for,” to say “Don’t drive if you’re drunk, though – remember that your sober friends are just a phone call, text, Instagram DM away (you can also try yelling loudly if that’s your style).”
In a second Facebook statement Friday morning, Melvin responded to the outcry, saying “thank you to everyone who has reached out to us and voiced their opinion; it has not fallen on deaf ears. Our company in no way supports sexual violence in any form and we deeply regret our poor (judgment). The local staff here in Bellingham are taking the situation very seriously and hope we can work together to address the issues that our community faces.”
Friday’s statement also responded to numerous social media posts regarding an incident involving Melvin employees at another Bellingham brewery.
“To clear the air, in November one of our Wyoming based employees went to one of our neighboring establishments and acted inappropriately,” Friday’s statement said. “This has been dealt with internally with our employees and an official apology was issued to the individual involved.”
Tofte said Melvin took the situation and the investigation of it seriously.
“We determined that his actions were unacceptable and Melvin took measures to resolve it with the parties involved,” Tofte said. “I made sure that the person involved in this incident no longer attends public events and has been required to attend the appropriate training, counseling and rehabilitation. I ensured corrective actions were taken and an official apology was issued to the individual and brewpub involved.”
Social media reaction to the incident has obviously been heavy. David Penrose, majority owner from BBay Running in Bellingham, posted a response to a review on Melvin’s main Facebook page stating that Melvin is no longer a destination for BBay’s Pub Runs.
Melvin, which has its “Mothership Taproom” in Wyoming, opened its Bellingham location in June and released its first four Bellingham-brewed beers in early December.
In an effort to reduce any bro-culture at Melvin, Tofte said the company has implemented a Code of Conduct policy to be signed by employees and contractors and are providing counseling to Bellingham staff “who are being harassed and feel threatened by the Bellingham community.”
“Having owned a restaurant in Wyoming for over 15 years, I never had to engage in sexual harassment training,” Tofte said. “When we opened the Bellingham location we did not start with harassment training, honestly it was not on my radar but now I know we should have started this way. Melvin Brewing is implementing a more comprehensive sexual and other harassment policy that will be rolled out to all employees and affiliates immediately.”