Platform Beer Co. Taproom Closed as All Employees Walk Out
Editor’s note: This article was updated on 3/2/2021 with additional comments from Platform Beer Co.
On Saturday, February 27, posts and images started circulating on social media indicating that staff of Platform Beer Co.’s Columbus taproom had walked out.
A sign posted to the taproom door read, “The entire Platform Columbus crew has quit. The taproom is closed until further notice. Thank you!”
Platform confirmed the taproom’s temporary closure on its social media channels later that evening.
Cleveland-based Platform opened its Downtown distribution facility and taproom at 408 N. Sixth St. in December 2016 and has since grown to six locations across the state.
An accompanying letter included a long list of grievances in how the company, which was acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev in August 2019, addressed the working conditions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter reads, “In several of the company-wide safety meetings regarding COVID-19 early on, it was made abundantly clear that the company was making money; to speak nothing of the AB acquisition or the safety net it may provide. During each of those calls we were told several times that “we’re shattering our goals,” though none of the boots-on-the ground, hourly essential employees have received hazard pay, or any financial support knowing full-well that the taproom itself does not get many customers, and by extension, no tips.”
Employees said in the letter that on weekdays, some bartenders would walk away with only $12 in tips after a seven-to-eight hour shift. Bartenders were also asked to assist in making food. Additionally, kitchen staff had had their hours reduced and delivery drivers were required to stop using their personal vehicles and instead drive company vans, “to save the company paying them mileage; reducing their pay by an average of 50%.”
On February 16, Columbus Underground received a press release from Platform regarding its “Haze to Raise” campaign, which promises to donate $1 of the proceeds from each case of the brewery’s Haze Jude hazy IPA sold in the state of Ohio toward the Ohio Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.
Launched in April 2020, the Employee Relief Fund provides grants to workers in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry, for housing, living and medical expenses.
“The most important part of Haze to Raise for us was making an impact, especially in one of the hardest hit businesses of the pandemic,” said Platform Co-founder Paul Benner in the press release. “The service industry is not only something Platform coexists within but is crucial to every community in Ohio.”
CU reached out to Platform to see if the program is still moving forward given the situation in Columbus.
“Platform launched Haze to Raise in 2020 and we continue to support it today,” the brewery said. “We are taking the time to listen and learn from our team and will fulfill our commitment to the program, and to our employees.”
The response did not directly address another question about Platform employees’ knowledge of the grant program or if they had been directed to apply.
Instead, an additional statement from Platform said, “We are taking this time to meet with all employees from all locations to encourage an open dialogue. We met with many of our team members on Monday, and we’ll continue the discussions this week. Platform is committed to learning more and moving forward in a positive way.”
In response to the walk-out, a community member has started a GoFundMe to support the former employees.
Outside of monetary issues, the letter raised serious safety concerns about Platform’s operations over the last year.
According to the letter, the taproom has had three positive cases of COVID-19 in the last six months, with employees stating they were only officially notified in two instances.
“One of the employees diagnosed with COVID was kitchen staff,” the letter stated. “We never closed, we were never notified officially in order to specifically disinfect the area, or to get tested ourselves.”
Employees said they felt the safety measures put in place were for legal reasons only and their health, and that of customers, came second.
The letter also shared the presence of black mold on the property in a cooler where food is stored. Employees reported that the mold is spreading to the main cooler and attaching to cans and cardboard boxes and must be wiped off on a regular basis.
Employees said they brought concerns to a previous general manager who was no longer with the company as of January. The letter said that while the manager advocated on the employees’ behalf through the proper channels, “nothing was ever addressed appropriately.”
On its social media channels, Platform has addressed the situation, with their statement in full below.
Today, Feb. 27, several employees at our Columbus taproom location abruptly resigned. We take this action extremely seriously and we are currently gathering more information about the issues that were raised. While we meet with current and former employees to learn more, we are temporarily closing our Columbus taproom.
Over the last year, our priority has been the health and safety of our employees and our guests. We have implemented health and safety protocols that closely follow CDC and local health authority guidelines, including contact tracing and proper communication following positive cases of COVID-19.
Platform was founded in 2014 on the premise that collaboration should be the cornerstone of everything that we do. This principle guides us as we brew beer and work to support the communities in our six locations across Ohio. Since day one, we have prided ourselves on working together to be the best brewer in the state and supporting our full team that works so hard toward that goal.
We are committed to making sure all of our employees know that their feedback will be heard anytime and anywhere. Starting on Monday, we will be scheduling small group conversations with all employees, across all locations as an open forum to ask questions so we can address any issues immediately.– Justin Carson & Paul Benner, Platform Co-Founders
For more information, visit platformbeer.co.