Vinyl Taco co-owner Lance Thorson statement regarding staff allegations and walk out

Published: May. 10, 2020 at 1:04 PM CDT
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Thanks for taking the time to talk this evening (Saturday). I look forward to being on your show and answering questions on Monday. Here are some comments:

The Forum was being absolutely reckless in their journalism and allowed a couple of people to slander and harm the reputation of a local business in order to pump it up as breaking news.

There was no verification to what the Forum said in the article. It’s all just “staged” news on the Forum’s part. They knew about it before it even happened on Saturday morning. They posted a picture of two employees taken on a previous night and called our main office at 7:53am Saturday morning to leave a message that “There is a mass walkout over at Vinyl Taco downtown and we’re wondering if you’d like to comment on it.” The Forum later called our location manager for comment and that was literally the first time that he had even heard of it!

In the article, the Forum reported that 20 of our employees walked out, when in reality it was 3 cooks this morning followed by some employees that did not show up for their shifts this afternoon.

We’d like to reiterate that Vinyl Taco values all of our employees and guests. Their safety is always our utmost concern and we've taken this pandemic seriously since the very beginning. In fact, we chose to completely shut-down our business by opting not to remain open for take-out orders for the 6 weeks prior to May 1st. By doing so, we ensured zero exposure for our employees and guests.

With the permission given by our Governor to re-open on May 1st, we properly put into action many procedures to abide by the state’s guidelines that were provided, plus we added several more. The following are several examples that we put into place to ensure the safety of our staff and guests:

- Hand sanitizer is available for all employees and guests to use.

- Several tables and a number of chairs were removed to meet social distancing requirements.

- Face masks were supplied to all of our employees. The state health dept. does not require that masks be worn, but all of our employees have been encouraged to wear them.

- Tables and chairs are sanitized between each use. (This has always been the case)

- Non-contact thermometers are used to check employees’ temperatures.

- Daily logs are kept and assessed for signs of potential symptoms of our employees.

- Paper menus are discarded after each use.

- Pens are sanitized after each use.

- We limited our hours of operation, which in turn, allows us to spend additional time cleaning and sanitizing.

On Thursday, April 30th, we held a meeting to address any concerns and to discuss these new safety procedures with our employees before we opened on Friday, May 1st. Only 5 employees showed up to that meeting. Since then, no comments had been made to management about any unsafe working conditions. We were completely blind-sided by this accusation.

When we initially contacted our employees about coming back to work, we simply asked them if they’d like to come back and if they were ready. There was no pressure placed on them to come back, people certainly don’t have to work if they don’t want to.

Some of the employees that walked out or didn’t show up to work today had come to us during the first week of re-opening asking us for full time hours, even though now they stated in the article that they were over-worked.

All employees returning back to work were going to receive a bonus on their paycheck to help them additionally during this time. We know it’s been a difficult time for everyone and we were going to surprise them with that. Unfortunately, these ungrateful people had to spoil the surprise.

We also offer health insurance to all employees that meet the full-time threshold.

I called the Chris Hagen from the Forum within 45 minutes of the story being published this morning. He did not publish all of my comments including my first comment when I said to him “The Forum was being absolutely reckless in their journalism and allowed a couple of people to slander and harm the reputation of a local business in order to pump it up as breaking news.” I specifically asked him to include it but he said that he absolutely would not and asked if I had any other comments.

Hours after giving him my comments, the Forum inserted them into the existing story online. There was no notification of an update to the story, so no one that previously read it would go back and read our side of the story. They also failed to include many of my other comments that were made.

The Forum is our neighbor across the street and we can’t believe that this is how they handled the situation. They could have walked across the street to talk with us or review all of the safety measures that we have in place. Why didn’t their editor hold this article from being published before talking to one of us? Our families have been involved with operating businesses in Downtown Fargo for 40 years.

The Forum is part of the problem in Fargo/Moorhead, this type of reporting only causes dissension and hatred. Why don’t they do an article on all the safety measures that we’ve put into place and show how guests feel safe to come out and dine with us instead?

We left a message for Bill Marcil Jr, however, we have yet to receive a return phone call from him.

Lastly, HPR & City Commissioner John Strand need to be held accountable for this “staged” reporting as well. They published Michael Strike’s self-written article before any of this occurred.

Lance Thorson

JL Beers of America, Inc.