Once a Food-World Darling, the Embattled Willows Inn Restaurant in Washington Has Closed

Louise Matthews

Subsequent years of controversy, the acclaimed and embattled Willows Inn in Washington Condition has shut.

The inn and cafe, which has expended more than a decade on different ideal-of lists, has been donated by its owners to a community social-services company, The Seattle Instances claimed on Monday night. Tim and Marcia McEvoy have offered the property—valued at $2 million—to Lighthouse Mission Ministries, which performs to conclusion homelessness in the space.

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The move will come immediately after the Willows Inn located alone embroiled in a range of incidents, ranging from authorized disputes to accusations of sexual harassment and racism to concerns about where it was sourcing its elements. The restaurant, which opened in 2010 with chef Blaine Wetzel at the helm, was the hub of a lot of of individuals allegations. (The McEvoys did not answer to The Seattle Occasions’ telephone phone calls, and Wetzel declined to remark.)

Shortly soon after opening his cafe, Wetzel—who arrived to the Willows Inn from Noma—began gaining accolades for his tasting menu manufactured with elements identified only on Lummi Island, where by the inn was situated. In 2014, he tied for the James Beard Growing Star Chef Award, and the following yr he received the James Beard Award for Most effective Chef Northwest.

But in 2017, the tides began to adjust. That 12 months, the US Department of Labor fined the cafe pretty much $150,000 for creating entry-degree kitchen area workers operate for totally free. And in a class-action lawsuit, former staff members mentioned the restaurant had withheld guidelines and time beyond regulation shell out, ensuing in a $600,000 settlement, irrespective of the cafe denying any wrongdoing.

A several several years later, The New York Times posted a damning report about the poisonous office lifestyle at the Willows Inn, which include allegations of sexual harassment and racism. Which is also the place it arrived to gentle that the cafe was sourcing components from off Lummi Island, in spite of professing usually, which includes applying chickens bout at Costco. Wetzel continued to deny most of the allegations, whilst admitting that some components came from off the island.

Extra recently, Wetzel and McEvoy settled a different wage theft course-action lawsuit for $1.37 million, and a few additional civil instances have been solved, according to a law firm for the 3 previous workforce who introduced individuals fits. In all, it is a litany of troubles that paints a fairly hideous picture of the kind of office the Willows Inn was.

Now the property will be utilised to help Lighthouse Mission Ministries in its hard work to overcome homelessness. It is unlikely that the area itself will develop into a homeless shelter, the nonprofit’s president and CEO advised The Seattle Occasions, but it will assist contribute to the bring about in some way—while likely remaining a cafe and resort with a new proprietor.

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