Restaurant workers quit after owner adds ‘Negro’ and ‘Caucasian’ cocktails to menu
Photo via Jesse Sherbourne

GETTYSBURG, Pa.—Interested in sipping on a “Caucasian” cocktail? How about a mixed drink called “The Negro”? No?

Well, the workers of Mela Kitchen at Jack’s Hard Cider in Gettysburg have no interest in serving them, either. On Friday, March 3, they walked off the job after the owner of the restaurant began selling cocktails with racialized names.

The proprietor of Mela Kitchen, Donald Hoffman, purchased the already-operating restaurant/bar back in 2019. Before then, under the old owners, he was manager. Even before he was the big boss, workers say Hoffman was already problematic when managing the Mela Kitchen restaurant.

His behavior reportedly even led to many higher-ups among the staff to quit in recent months. Allegedly, Hoffman repeatedly mistreated staff and emotionally and verbally abused them, including making sexist remarks and inappropriately touching both male and female staff members.

The staff endured all this until Hoffman revealed on Thursday, March 2, that he would be adding a white-colored cocktail called “The Caucasian” to the menu over the weekend and that anyone offended by this development should “buckle up” for more.

That’s because, they say, he announced he will be serving another cocktail the following week, a black one called “The Negro.” Apparently, another suggested cocktail name was “Redneck Russian.” The owner also promised that future cocktails would be equally if not more offensive.

Workers made formal complaints to management and notified them of their plans to walk out if the names were not changed. Hoffman learned about this development through an email and became explosive when workers described him as completely unprofessional.

Hoffman retaliated by firing staff members and telling others to seek employment elsewhere if they had a problem with his menu. Employees asked for a meeting to discuss the issue with unaware workers, but they were refused the right to assemble. Workers were also threatened with removal by the state police.

“In what worlds, do you think you can threaten your boss and expect not to be released, especially in a right-to-work state like Pennsylvania?” Hoffman reportedly said in an email to one staff member.

One worker said on social media, “I’m not surprised an old white man thinks a staff not okay with racism are too sensitive.” Currently, Mela Kitchen has no General Manager or Chef De Cuisine; there are approximately eight front staff, most of whom are not old enough to serve alcohol.

“I cannot just tax and spend like the country that provides you the right to be outraged by the slightest thing,” Hoffman told one employee.

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Jesse Sherbourne
Jesse Sherbourne

Jesse Sherbourne writes from Pennsylvania and is a member of Put People First PA.