Lush, a Minneapolis gay bar, celebrated pride weekend by firing its entire staff in a Facebook announcement.
Like so many LGBTQ establishments around the country, Lush suffered under COVID-19, and had to shutter as part of social distancing regulations. Add to that the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, and a declaration from bar ownership that it would work to diversify its staff during the closure.
Still, nobody expected the bar to lay off its entire staff. “When LUSH reopens it will be better than ever, with a redesigned concept, a new leadership structure, a reimagined entertainment program, and an enhanced commitment to diversity and equity,” the management said in a Facebook post June 15. “As part of this redesign, all positions across our organization will be re-hired in a transparent and equitable process.”
That came as a major surprise to bar employees, who, along with a number of patrons, expressed their outrage on the post.
“So you basically just fired all of your employees over a Facebook post?” said Derek Drake. “Wow… f*cking cowards. Clearly you aren’t learning anything from other businesses opening in the community – because plenty are reopening and it’s working just fine for them. Grow a set of balls and learn how to run a better business.”
“Wow what a total lack of class, firing your staff on a public Facebook post?” wrote Angie Brown. “Who thought this was a good idea? Shame on you.”
Worse, the announcement came after employees drafted a letter to the ownership requesting changes to Lush’s employee practices. Those demands included sensitivity training, a zero-tolerance policy on “inappropriate touching,” and diversification of staff and performers.
48 hours later, Ken Darling, co-owner of the bar, took to Facebook to express his own outrage and regret. Darling claims he was traveling, and that his co-owners James Nelson and Brian Johnston had made the announcement without his input.
“I’m not sure how widely this is known, but I am not an active owner of LUSH;” Darling wrote. “I am not involved in the operations of the business in any meaningful way and have been out of town until a few days ago.”
“I know that’s not an excuse and I am truly sorry,” Darling continued. “I was led to believe that the staff were on board with the need for a redesign, were fully aware that we would not be reopening anytime soon, knew that not everyone would be called back and understood that we were going to concentrate on building a more diverse staff. I, stupidly, thought this statement was to update the general public, affirming facts and plans that had already been communicated to our staff and performers….I failed to do all those things and for that I am deeply sorry. It was completely inappropriate for LUSH staff and performers to learn of such important developments via a Facebook post instead of being communicated with directly.”
Darling went on to say that he had accepted Nelson and Johnson’s resignations, and that he hopes to find more diverse owners for Lush in the near future. “I have already begun to speak to some people who might help make that happen and hope to have more details soon,” Darling said. “I will continue to update the community as the plans are developed.”