The Willows Inn — Lummi Island’s wonderful eating vacation spot that, in recent times, confronted quite a few allegations of racism and sexual harassment plus lawsuits alleging wage theft — has closed completely, the Seattle Occasions stories. Willows Inn chef and co-owner Blaine Wetzel didn’t present remark to the newspaper however throughout a presentation on the Vallarta-Nayarit Gastronomic Pageant final month, his spouse, chef Daniela Soto-Innes, revealed that she and her husband would open a restaurant in Nayarit in 2023, per the Puerto Vallarta Day by day Information.
The brand new proprietor of the Willows Inn, a Bellingham nonprofit referred to as Lighthouse Mission Ministries whose mission is to finish homelessness in Whatcom County, acquired the property as a donation from earlier co-owners Tim and Marcia McEvoy. The Christian social service nonprofit says it doesn’t but have official plans for the restaurant and inn that comprise the Willows Inn however might theoretically promote to a brand new owner-operator to assist fund a brand new facility in Bellingham.
The narrative surrounding the Willows Inn shifted dramatically over the previous half-decade. As soon as on nearly each regional and nationwide best-of checklist, together with Eater’s in 2016 — partly for its declare of sourcing hyper-local substances from idyllic Lummi Island — the restaurant started to indicate indicators of hassle in 2017, when a Division of Labor investigation led to the top of the stage program and a $149,000 wonderful for unpaid wages and damages to 19 kitchen workers. Although Wetzel denied wrongdoing, in early 2021 the restaurant paid $600,00 to settle a associated class-action lawsuit that alleged wage theft.
Shortly thereafter, a New York Occasions expose painted a damning image of a poisonous office, with 35 former workers alleging sexism, sexual harassment, and racist bullying on the a part of Wetzel and supervisor Reid Johnson. The 2021 report additionally claimed that the restaurant would generally buy substances at grocery shops like Costco and cross them off as island-grown. (Wetzel denied a lot of the allegations within the piece however did admit that many substances come from exterior Lummi Island.) In Could 2021, protestors gathered exterior the restaurant to name for motion primarily based on the allegations.
Simply final month, the Willows Inn agreed to settle one other class-action lawsuit associated to the earlier one alleging wage theft — this time for greater than $1.37 million, the Seattle Occasions reported. “The Willows Inn additionally at present faces three civil instances in state and federal courts,” in keeping with the Occasions. “All three had been introduced in opposition to the restaurant by former workers.” It seems the fallout might proceed.