Red Mill owner to step down after making offensive online comments

John Shepherd, owner of Red Mill Burgers, has stepped down from his position after being called out on offensive language and behavior online.

Shepherd, who was in control of the Red Mill restaurants in Ballard, Phinney Ridge and Interbay, has written an open letter to address the offensive online comments that were reported on The Stranger Blog on Wednesday.

After the offensive comments spread online, members of the community took to social media to call for a boycott of Red Mill burger restaurants, including former Stranger writer and Bureau of Fearless Ideas Creative Director David Schmader who’s post was shared over 500 times.

The Stranger post was updated this morning with Shepherd’s open letter (see below) in which he takes responsibility for the offensive comments that he posted online about a number of topics including the Seattle City Council and the transgender community.

“I’ve met with my sister Babe, my brother Michael, and others within the organization and conveyed to them that I need to turn over control and operations in order to reflect on my actions,” writes Shepherd in his open letter to the community.

Check out the entire letter below:

An Open Letter from John Shepherd

I am writing this letter to apologize for my offensive language and behavior in addressing a number of issues concerning our community, and those who have opinions with which I disagree.

For example, I am passionate about our city’s inability to adequately address our community’s homeless issue. As a recovering heroin addict, 33 years clean and sober, I have very strong opinions on how the addiction epidemic and the issue of homelessness go hand in hand.

Over the years, I’ve been a vocal advocate for real-world solutions surrounding this issue and like many people, I’ve found myself frustrated with the lack of meaningful response by our city leaders. I’ve also been unsatisfied with city leaders’ approaches to issues of growth, zoning, and their overall visions for our community. I am proud to be a native of Seattle and I care deeply about our great city.

While I am not sorry about my disapproval around our city’s leadership, I am horribly sorry for the ways I voiced that disapproval.

I have absolutely no excuse for my use of offensive language. It was wrong by any standard. I apologize for my comments and am reaching out to those I’ve personally offended to offer my regrets directly.

Similarly, I make no excuses for sharing posts on Facebook poking fun at the current debate around access to bathrooms. I shared a handful of cartoons others posted that I thought satirized the debate in a humorous way.  Those who know me understand that I support the position of LGBTQ community. In reflection, I can see how the cartoons are offensive, and I apologize.

Finally, I want to acknowledge that people are understandably angry with me. I’ve demonstrated poor judgment. I think it is important, though, that my behavior not punish the employees of Red Mill Burgers who work hard every day to serve our beloved customers. My comments were mine alone, and do not represent the other owners of Red Mill Burgers, or the good men and woman who work there.

Effective immediately, I am stepping down from my role at Red Mill Burgers indefinitely. I’ve met with my sister Babe, my brother Michael, and others within the organization and conveyed to them that I need to turn over control and operations in order to reflect on my actions.

Finally, I pledge that while I will not remain silent about critical issues I think are important to our community, I will advocate and express my views in a way that is respectful to all involved.

Thank you,

John Shepherd

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