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Founders plans re-opening of Detroit taproom

November 7, 2019
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Founders Brewing Co. Detroit taproom exterior partial
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Founders is gradually reestablishing its Detroit presence.

Grand Rapids-based Founders Brewing Co. will re-open its Detroit taproom in early 2020, according to the brewery today.

Founders will also donate 100% of profits from the re-opened taproom to Detroit charities and community organizations, through at least 2022.

Founders is now in the process of re-connecting and building its relationships with local nonprofits.

This effort will add to the company’s existing charitable program, The Big Pitcher, which will expand in 2020 to provide more support to charities in West Michigan and across the state.

“We really wanted to be a part of the historic renaissance taking place in Detroit,” said Mike Stevens, co-founder and CEO, Founders Brewing Co.

“We feel we opened Detroit for the right reasons, but we recognize there’s room to do things better. When we re-open our doors to beer lovers in Detroit, we promise an environment that will be positive for our customers, employees and the community as a whole.”

Founders temporarily closed the Detroit taproom amid a now-settled racial discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit against Founders was filed in August 2018 by former Detroit employee Tracy Evans. Evans, who is African-American, alleged co-workers used the N-word around him and labeled segregated office printers, according to the Detroit Free Press. Evans also alleged Founders fired him in retaliation for his complaints to human resources.

Founders and Evans agreed to a settlement early this month. Terms of settlement were not disclosed.

Founders expects its community commitment to include the addition of trained formerly incarcerated Detroiters to its workforce, providing career opportunities in hospitality.

Additionally, Founders has hired Detroit-based Thomas Group Consulting to create a new company-wide strategy, with Thomas Group principal Buzz Thomas serving as Founders’ interim director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Thomas Group Consulting will also assist Founders with identifying community partners in Detroit to ensure a diverse workforce and impactful philanthropy.

“I look forward to helping Founders create a best-in-class model for diversity, equity and inclusion that will be able to serve as a model for other companies to emulate,” Thomas said.

Thomas has provided counsel in this area to companies in a variety of industries and is also a former Michigan state senator and representative.

Thomas replaces Graci Harkema, who publicly resigned from her position as diversity and inclusion director at Founders around the same time Founders temporarily closed the Detroit taproom.

Founders also plans to hire a firm to conduct an independent audit of its workplace to determine any workplace improvements that need to be made.

“This experience has been humbling for us, but it’s put us in position to consider the type of future we want for Founders, creating a new vision for important aspects of the company,” said Mike Stevens, co-founders, Founders Brewing Co.

Founders opened the Detroit taproom, at 456 Charlotte St., just north of the historic Masonic Temple, in 2017. The company estimates a $3.1 million economic impact in Detroit from employee wages alone since opening the taproom. It expects to significantly increase the taproom's economic impact, between employment and donated profits, starting in 2020.

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