Founders to donate all Detroit taproom profits to charity upon reopening early 2020

Having settled a racial discrimination lawsuit and looking toward the future, Founders Brewing Company announced Thursday plans to donate 100 percent of its Detroit taproom profit once it reopens in early 2020.

After closing the Detroit taproom on Oct. 25 amid a racial discrimination lawsuit, the company announced it plans to re-open the Detroit taproom in a few months after finding a new General Manager. A specific date has not been set, but their hope is January, maybe February. 

Sitting before press Thursday morning, co-founders Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens explained their plans to give all profits of the Detroit taproom to charities and community organizations over the next three years. Stevens said over the last couple of years, they made an economic impact of $3 million in wages alone, and the expectation could be an additional estimated $2 million in donations over those three years.

Founders closing Detroit taproom amid racial discrimination lawsuit

"It's a commitment that we want to make," Stevens said, adding the goal is to connect to the community in an honest, real way. He also noted that the staff will be paid through the rest of the year.

Former Founders employee Tracy Evans filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming racial discrimination. He was fired in 2018, shortly after notifying his supervisor that he planned to meet with human resources about alleged patterns of racism in the work environment.

Evans had said he was consistently written up for being a few minutes late while his white co-workers were not, and that racist comments by white coworkers were not addressed or disciplined. The suit added the company had electronically named its printers "white guy printer" and "black guy printer." He also alleged he was denied a promotion due to his race. Two of his white counterparts, who he trained, were promoted despite both having behavioral records with the company.

The two reached a settlement last week. Per the agreement, terms of the settlement will not be disclosed.

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Founders announced it was closing its taproom in Detroit on Oct. 25 on its social media, saying they were dealing with some challenges at that location and are closing it temporarily.  Amid the fallout from the lawsuit, Founders recently pulled out of the Detroit Fall Beer Fest and several bars and retailers have also announced they're no longer going to serve Founders beer.

The former GM was relieved of his duties in Detroit and is on leave from the company. They added Thursday that finding a new GM that properly represents their values is crucial and they're looking for a native Detroiter.

"Our intentions were right -- that we wanted to be part of the Detroit community ... I think we didn't do a great job, but we need to find the right people here in the community to partner with," Engbers said.

Founders Brewing Co reaches settlement in discrimination lawsuit with ex-employee

In comes Thomas Group Consulting. Buzz Thomas, a former state lawmaker who represented Detroit, was hired as a consultant. He said the company aims to help clients align themselves with the aspirations of the community they're serving.

"We're excited to help Founders create its next chapter in Detroit," he said. "I like them. I like their values."

Engbers said following the lawsuit, there's no doubt some people are doubting their brand. That's going to take work within the community and building trust back up.

"To our employees and to our customers, we want them to know that we're sorry how this lawsuit affected them and perhaps put them in an awkward position. Beer should bring people together, we've said that over and over again ... We want our legacy to be about bringing people together, enjoying great beer and building bridges," he said.