Three co-owners of the restaurant Red Rabbit surrendered their minority ownership stake at Twelve Rounds Brewing and said the beer would not be served at their bustling midtown eatery and bar after brewery founder Daniel Murphy’s diatribes on Facebook touched off an angry backlash.
Murphy faced the wrath of many people late Monday after a Facebook post on his personal page disparaged the Women’s March events on Saturday that drew several million protesters throughout the country challenging the statements and positions of newly inaugurated President Donald Trump.
Murphy later issued an apology on the brewery’s Facebook page and asked that people give him and his East Sacramento business another chance. But it was too late for many, including Red Rabbit’s Matt Nurge, Sonny Mayugba and John Bays, who said Murphy’s incendiary views and angry rants throughout his Facebook page prompted them to get out of the deal in a hurry.
In this week’s Facebook message, Murphy wrote: “I am disgusted at all of the people and politicians that supported this anti-Trump event. … I am especially disgusted with the politicians who supported this divisive event. Time to vote all these pieces of garbage out of office.”
The investors said they were aghast that Murphy, among other things, had in previous posts also railed against Muslims, gays, Hillary Clinton and liberals, and had referred to Barack Obama as a Muslim and a traitor.
“What an amateur move to think that you’re not alienating people by spewing that kind of talk,” said Nurge. “I don’t even think it’s political. I can’t help but feel he is verbally attacking our employees, my wife and our daughters. It was directly and personally a little hurtful.”
Nurge added: “After seeing the (Facebook) screen shots and seeing the reaction, it’s just the opposite of how we operate. I would hate Red Rabbit to be associated with that. We are so inclusive and we can’t support that.”
Asked if he would still be willing to serve Twelve Rounds beer at Red Rabbit, Nurge, who oversees the beverage operation, said, “Unfortunately, no.”
The three partners got involved in Twelve Rounds after Murphy approached them several years ago and asked them to partner in some way to serve food at the brewery. Murphy was operating on a shoestring, they said, and did not have money to pay them to design a menu and provide other consulting services, so he offered an ownership stake in lieu of payment. Mayugba says it amounted to 9 percent of the brewery.
Murphy said in a text message Wednesday that he was “taking a break from media right now” and he did not immediately respond to a voicemail asking for his reaction. His apology on the brewery’s Facebook page had over 1,000 comments by Wednesday morning. Most were unforgiving and vowed never to patronize the brewery, but some voiced support and said they would visit soon. The brewery was closed Tuesday but was scheduled to open at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
In a brief interview two weeks ago, well before the scandal, Murphy said he was still hopeful the Red Rabbit owners would launch the food program in coming months. He also noted Twelve Rounds was in expansion mode and had just invested in a bottling machine, which generally costs $100,000 or more.
Mayugba said he and the other partners had limited contact with Murphy and had no idea about his views. When the firestorm hit late Monday and throughout Tuesday, Mayugba sent an email to Murphy saying he, Nurge and Bays were cutting ties. He was uncertain what monetary value, if any, those ownership shares have at this point.
Asked how Murphy and his wife, Elle, reacted, Mayugba said, “They were extremely apologetic and disappointed with themselves. They were accepting of that, supportive of the decision and disappointed that it has gone this way.”
He added: “We were passive members. We were never investors. That’s an important distinction. We were consultants being paid with equity, but the kitchen never happened and the work never got done. When we saw what surfaced (Tuesday), we decided we didn’t want to be associated with the entity and we effectively surrendered our membership interest in Twelves Rounds.”
Mayugba said it’s almost always a bad move to mix political views and business, especially in the hospitality industry.
“Hospitality is politically agnostic. Last time I checked, giving someone a good meal and a good experience is good for everybody,” he said.