West Coast Grocery Co. and Victim Speak Out On Sexual Harassment Accusations

Late last week sexual harassment accusations were leveled on instagram against new Portland brewery West Coast Grocery Co.’s head brewer Owen Woods. Bartender/server Sarah de Noyo had shared on instagram that Woods had asked her to show him her breasts as she closed up the brewery near the end of her shift. Days later Woods was suspended and eventually fired but not before accusations of victim blaming and supporting sexual harassment in the workplace were made, and continue to be made against West Coast Grocery Co. In order to get the full story and provide a balanced account of what happened, we spoke to both the victim Sarah de Noyo (who bravely shares her story below) and WCGco owner Charlie Hyde.

A brief timeline of the recent events goes something like this: While closing up the brewery tasting room Woods and another brewer were hanging out late while de Noyo finished her shift. At some point Woods overhears a conversation which prompts him to ask de Noyo “can you show me your boobs!” After a reported 3 hours of arguing and tears de Noyo leaves and later reports the incident. Management calls for a meeting between both parties but after returning to work de Noyo feels unheard and Woods is suspended for one week without pay. De Noyo quits and soon after receives an email from owner Charlie Hyde on why he is choosing to suspend and not fire Woods and calling it an “isolated incident” based on”where alcohol and a line between friends and co-workers was crossed.” Upset, de Noyo shares screenshots of this message with her own commentary on instagram which ignites a firestorm on West Coast Grocery’s page calling for Woods to be fired. A day later West Coast Grocery announces Woods has been let go but that does little to quell the backlash and accusations that they were supporting harassment in the workplace and promoting “rape culture” and calling for a boycott of the brewery.

It’s worth noting that the incident took place on December 30th and WCGco announced Woods firing on January 6th, a 7-day turnaround that Hyde says was necessary to do due diligence but some say his firing was only brought about by the social media backlash.

After talking with Hyde about what happened, I asked him for his version of events and why he responded how he did. Here is his words unedited:

As you know, last week an employee of ours made a grossly inappropriate comment to another staff member. The comment was sexual in nature. The moment we heard about this sexual harassment, our management immediately launched a formal investigation and met with both parties to take the next course of action. We arranged meetings with both parties individually, and shortly after, we held a group mediation session with our General Manager, the two parties, and owner. These meetings and discourse occurred over multiple days. We take sexual harassment very seriously and wanted to be extremely thorough in our investigation. After these initial days of investigation, an immediate suspension without pay was put into place. However, as the investigation progressed and more facts came to light, we decided that the only course of action was termination. Our family business has not, and will not ever, tolerate sexual harassment of any kind.

We want to express our deep apologies to the staff member who was the victim of sexual harassment. We take full responsibility for maintaining a positive work environment and will meet with every employee individually in the aftermath of this incident to ensure that this type of behavior does not happen again. We sincerely want nothing more than to create a welcoming and safe environment for our guests and employees.

We pride ourselves on being a neighborhood pub that supports and donates to the local community. Sexual harassment has no place at West Coast Grocery.

Sarah de Noyo, the bartender/server at West Coast Grocery Co. who was sexually harassed by Woods put an incredible amount of time and thought into her response. It’s quite long which is why I summarized a short hand of what happened above, but for those interested in reading her full account and backstory, the difficult to read story is posted in it’s entirety below.

On Sunday the 30th I was closing the brewery alone. Owen Woods, our brewer, had been sitting at the bar drinking for a while. He said he was hanging around because of something to do with the carbonation on some of the beer that he wanted to finish that night so he didn’t have to come in on NYE. 
I lock the doors at 10, I proceed to clean for the next hour. At 11:03, nearing the end of my shift, I am at the bar looking through the checklist and about to count money. Kitchen manager had just left after having his shift beer, and another member of kitchen staff, former base camp brewer Kyle, was having his second beer (?) I’m not sure because I believe Owen was going behind the bar to get his own beers while I was doing other things. Owen steps away for a moment, I’m alone with Kyle. Kyle begins apologizing to me for the last time we socialized, where he made multiple physical advances towards me after I told him to stop, told him my exact expectations of him and how he should treat me, asked him if he could comply with that, and got a confirmation. He is detailing that he didn’t understand and that he was drunk, I say it’s not an excuse. I forgive him. Owen, having not been paid attention to for 30 seconds says “can you show me your boobs!”, to which Kyle and I both say “what the fuck?” I tell Owen to never speak to me again, to leave, he refuses saying he’s working. He says he doesn’t understand what’s wrong with his behavior. He tells me that he doesn’t know anyone else like me, with my confidence, with my “swagger”, and that I’m so fun and open that he thought I’d be okay with it. 
Kyle is defending me, but still taking it pretty lightly. Owen asks me to explain to him why what he did was wrong. He says things like “he’s just curious” or “I figured I could say whatever to you because I’m drinking”. So not like, his inhibitions are low and it slipped out, but he argued that he could get away with more when he’s drinking because people will let him get away with it. 
I begin to explain that you can’t say whatever you want to people, Kyle and I both use anecdotes to demonstrate smaller lessons in empathy and caring for others that you learn when you are young. He keeps mentioning he is scientifically curious, has been preoccupied with what my boobs might look like for the time I’ve worked there. I’m one of the original employees, so Owen and I met there in July. He tells me I can keep my empathy, insults me for thinking I’m a good person for caring about others. 
The part that has been particularly difficult about this is that I am terminally ill. My right breast is slightly larger than my left. The left side of my body is a lot sicker than my right. I was fourteen when my friends started dying of what I have. I was 7 the first time I lied about an IV in my arm and why it was there to my peers because I was scared that I could never be considered beautiful or worthy of respect. These are things I hadn’t spoken out loud before, and I am explaining this to him because he has brought up that because my breasts are different sizes he is curious and has never seen that before and would be super interested. I am crying at this point telling him how creepy and hurtful his probing questions are. I am telling him that his curiosity doesn’t entitle him to anything, and beyond that, that you can’t say those things to women. He says he says it all the time, will continue to say it, that I’m the only one who has ever cared. He says I should take it as a compliment, that it’s him telling me I’m gorgeous. I explain that beyond that being the wrong way to compliment someone, singling someone out for their differences is selfish, sadistic, and insensitive. I explain that he has treated me like a background character in his life. He begins to apologize with things like “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m not going to change” 
I continue telling him how difficult it has been to look in the mirror and see a body that to me, looks sick. It has been extremely painful noticing the physical manifestations of my illnesses. It has been something that has taken me so long to feel okay with. I say you have no idea what people go through, you have no idea what kind of relationship I have with my body and you have no rights to it anyway. I ask him to leave, he says no. Kyle urges him to leave, he says no. He tells me that I haven’t been empathetic to him, and I say “okay… how?” And he blurts out “I have cancer!”, to which Kyle, who is also his closest friend, says “no you don’t, what the hell.” I say even if you did, I have not violated your privacy or made fun of you for anything. He says “ball cancer!” I am crying more because it is clear he is not listening.
From here the conversation digresses further into a circular conversation from hell. I clocked out the moment he said something to me even though I wasn’t finished because I was worried about the owner watching the footage (which he often does) and getting mad that I was socializing on the clock or whatever it may have looked like. Kyle, his friend, was recently fired from base camp for being drunk at work, and I’ve had to give him clear explanations of my rights as a woman and how he crossed them on multiple occasions. Most of my socialization with Owen woods had been about the few dates I went on with Kyle and the boundaries he crossed that upset me, how people blamed me for being around him drunk, etc. He really should have known better, but as he stated, it was and is a choice that his curiosity is more important. 
Upon leaving the bar I sat down with Kyle because at this point, I was still confused and trusted him at least a little more with Owen. It’s around 2 now, the conversation started at 11. Kyle admits that Owen asked him about my breasts and my body while we were seeing each other. I explain to Kyle that this has robbed me of confidence in all of my past sexual encounters, wondering if my body was something others we preoccupied on. I explain to Kyle that this is this shit women deal with all the tome and that’s why his behavior was so serious even if he’s “a good guy”.
Onto the next question, I apologize that that’s so long. I didn’t want to leave anything out. I notified management the next day, explained it to Caitlin who is the taproom manager, she immediately empathized and informed the owner who is basically the GM but doesn’t do much. Charlie, the owner, reaches out to me that day. St this point they are handling it well, they contact Owen. They both ask me what I am comfortable with from there. I mentioned to Caitlin that he shouldn’t be able to keep his job. That night, NYE, after a day of crying, I FaceTime Caitlin. It was difficult and embarrassing, but I tell her the entire story, complete with how it has made me feel in my body. That i am scared to go out. She informs me that Owen isn’t denying any of it. (Which, how could he? There’s a witness and a camera pointed at him for the duration of our conversation) and that we will do something about it. Charlie meets with Owen the next day and he completely matches my story, though I remember much more of it than he does. 
The next day, the second of the year, I meet with Charlie. Charlie mentions he’s taking it seriously, and seems to be. But still throws around that it’s hard to even think about firing his brewer who won him a gold medal. I say that something has to be done, if we don’t take it seriously then it’s clear that we are okay with this behavior, that’s how we have a world
Where people in power get away with things like this. We rehash the story, and so on. I am asked if he is allowed to apologize to me in person again and I say as much as I don’t want to see him ever again, I want to cooperate as much as possible and that I will participate in the “mediation” with all of us there and let him speak to me during it. I said I would try to have an open mind, but that Owen was pretty clear on not wanting to change. 
Before the meeting the next day Caitlin tells me
Charlie won’t fire Owen, asks me what I’m trying to get out of this. I said justice. I said this happens to a lot of women and that I want to feel safe at work, and that if they don’t fire him I will have to get justice in another way. That being an ally to this behavior is the same as supporting it. 
We go into the meeting, Owen looks sad and apologizes, he apparently had no idea how much he was hurting me, and regretted it as soon as he said it. 🙄 Charlie is crying and repeatedly guilting me with things like, “I just know Owen is a good guy and is sorry”. I say sorry doesn’t cut it. I explain that people can’t get away with things because they’re star players or good at making beer. Caitlin does her best to advocate for this side, saying that his role here made it difficult for me to come forward and agrees with me that this is a problem, and that it would have been easier to fire someone else vs. our only brewer. I mention that this is part of the issue. If his position of importance is coming into the decision making, we are clearly being more lenient because of it. Charlie says he hasn’t seen that side of him. Which, men never see that side of other men because they aren’t sexually aggressive towards other men, especially when they’re their superiors. Charlie suggests two weeks unpaid suspension and a class. I say that it took me years even to begin to understand my rights as a woman, that a class isn’t going to cut it. It could take years for him to change his behavior, and letting him keep his job because you like him tells him that if he keeps being likable he can do this type of thing. Charlie says it was an isolated incident. I say he has made comments like this before, that I have been angry with him, that I have spoken to him about why it was wrong and that he has given me similar half assed apologies after the fact many times before. That they’re not real. Owen mentions that he hasn’t slept. I explain that I don’t feel comfortable in public, that I refused to be in photos on NYE, that I’m wearing a ring on my ring finger so people don’t talk to me,  that I am scared of the world we live in, that it worries me that his position of power is what is keeping him around even when he admits what he did. Charlie says ill hear from him about what will happen in the next 24 hours. 
26 hours later I show up for my shift. Just before my shift I had a lot of trouble getting dressed because even wearing a sports bra, everything seemed to cling to my body. Having a body was something that mad me emotional. I go into work and Charlie is sitting down having drinks with 3-4 of his friends, laughing. This immediately makes me feel like they aren’t taking it seriously. Caitlin immediately pulls me aside because I have tears in my eyes and asks me if I need to go home. Not in a particularly nice way, but in a manager who is upset way. I don’t think she knows what she was doing, honestly, and I think has a lot of internalized misogyny and doesn’t understand that she deserves better. I explain that I was anxious all day waiting for this email that Charlie had apparently already started. Then I try to get dressed and it is really difficult emotionally. Then I get here and Charlie is able to have a nice time somehow. I say I wanted to be here but I don’t feel safe. I am afraid of men and I am scared that having a body is asking for it, as Owen explained to me. She says not to let him get to me, men are creepy, I need to get my game face on or leave. I leave.
I went to a movie after my 6 minute shift, during which I cracked a tooth from clenching my jaw from stress. I woke up thinking about this. I messaged Charlie asking for an update, just mentionin that the past few days had been hell for me and I was feeling really uncomfortable. He says he needs a few more days, I should hear by Monday. Caitlin texts me back finally at this point and asks me why I want to work there still among other problematic things. I tell them both I have to quit. I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel heard, I feel I’m being blamed, the stress is destroying my body and mind. I ask them to let me know what happens so I can reinvolve myself as necessary.
Very soon after I quit I get the email that I then screenshot and shared. There were so many issues with it that I couldn’t even respond. Then when I shared it, Caitlin immediately got upset that I threw them under the bus. 
This is getting exhausting and I’m trying to be thorough. I may email you again if I realize there is something I forgot, but I’m gonna move on from there for now. They only somewhat apologizes, and only on Instagram. They are still pretending it was a single comment and not a long conversation. They are sort of acting like it’s he said she said, even though he admitted to everything. And I’m not even mad about Owen anymore, he learned his lesson. He has to understand what he did was wrong by now. I’m angry that Charlie only took action when hundreds of people saw his email where he blames me for being “friends” with Owen. I’m waiting for an apology on a massive scale, and a true admission of the internalized misogyny and a commitment to learn more and make it better. I had to quit my job before I even heard anything. That is not okay. And beyond that, they’re still skewing it. 
I spoke to de Noyo further about if she thought Woods deserved a second chance, or if Hyde and West Coast Grocery Co. had did anything to make up for it in hindsight. De Noyo says “I don’t feel too guilty about the way things have gone” and says looking back on it and what’s happening.
“I’m still upset with Charlie. His email was problematic, his guilt trips were despicable, and the way he sided with Owen because he’s good at something was silencing. The only thing he had going for him, and Owen too, was their ignorance. I think Owen has learned his lesson, and I don’t think the focus should be on him. There’s know way he doesn’t understand what he did by now. However, I do think he has been a predator for a long tome. I am 24, he said to me that he was 35 that night and that he’s been treating women this way for a long tome and they never “overreact like this.” That’s an 11 year advantage on learning how to treat people. And beyond that, he said that nobody calls him out for it. I’ve had about a dozen women come forward saying they’ve worked with him or know him and have experienced similar things with him or know someone who has. I also know his ex girlfriend who has deeply internalized a responsibility for men’s actions. In the past she shamed me for hanging out with someone I knew had a crush on me, and that I couldn’t expect him to not touch me just because I told him not to because men are pigs.”
Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

Discussion

  • david
    david
    Wed Jan 9, 2019 6:03 PM

    Does no one else think this is now completely detached from the world of actual human beings?

    This? Really?!

    • Emily
      Emily
      Thu Jan 10, 2019 7:57 AM

      Yep. A man so much as farts in the wrong direction & he’s fired, labeled a sexual predator & written about on blogs. *And I’m a woman*
      So many legitimate sexual predators out there… this guy is not one of them.

      • N/A
        N/A
        Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:35 PM

        Only 2-10% of sexual harassment accusations in the US are false. Sexual harassment is also the most under reported crime in our judicial system. What you’re saying Emily, is that 90-98% of sexual harassment needs to be tolerated?

        • david
          david
          Thu Jan 17, 2019 1:37 AM

          N/A:

          Emily said this guy is not a sexual predator. Learn to comprehend what you read. And then read more.

    • anonymous
      anonymous
      Wed Jan 9, 2019 7:51 PM

      Couldn’t agree more, David. We live in a weird time now, where “mob mentality” and “call out culture” is running ramped on social media and in the city of Portland, OR. I feel for any victim and do not condone inappropriate behavior especially in the workplace. But this was taken to a silly new level.

      • John M.
        John M.
        Wed Jan 9, 2019 8:44 PM

        What really struck me, is that there’s no comment from Mr. Owens or “Kyle” in this article. Did New School attempt to get a statement from them about this event? In a story like this, I would assume that would be pretty basic.

        • Samurai Artist
          Samurai Artist
          Wed Jan 9, 2019 8:51 PM

          Owen is on the record with what happened, is no longer employed there and shut off his social media. Kyle is not the subject of the article and I am not sure should be brought into the discussion. They are both welcome to comment though.

        • Sharon
          Sharon
          Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:52 PM

          Why did she keep talking to these two clowns? Why not just leave?

          • Bonny MacDonald
            Bonny MacDonald
            Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:28 PM

            How is a victim supposed to act/react?
            If you don’t consider her a victim, then scale it down, and ask yourself, how is the harassed participant in this conversation supposed to act?”

            If you remove the emotion of the female participant’s personal letter, this is a disgusting interaction on behalf of male participant- Owen Woods.

            Had Sarah de Noyo had a third party write this out in legal terminology, maybe people wouldn’t be so quick to to write ridiculous things like, “A man so much as farts in the wrong direction & he’s fired…”

            If anything, this letter shows a common interaction in which an older co-worker says things to younger female co-workers, gets cocky about it because they are in a position of power and think they can get away with it, and then they rub it in further thinking that no one is going to call them out on it.

            And then the female has to leave, wondering if she can come back to work and not be harassed by the same person, and often, she will be harassed again because no one put their foot down the first time.

            Remove the emotion of the letter, and you can see the reality of what happens in many workplaces everyday.
            Thats the most important take-away from this situation.

            • B
              B
              Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:19 PM

              Owen has been “friends” with my boyfriend for years. He always creeped me out. When the Trump, grab em by the pussy video leaked, we discussed it one night. He argued for Trump and tried to silence my arguments against him. It didn’t go very far because I was surprised it was even happening. I didn’t know him well but soon found out he’s the typical rape culture apologist. I told my man I never wanted to hang out with him again or anyone like him. He agreed that was best.

              • david
                david
                Sat Jan 19, 2019 12:45 AM

                Are you real? Are you credible? Do you have an agenda? Is your story real? Is your account 100% accurate? What makes this anecdote relevant to the issue here?

                Wow.