Controversy involving a Portland coffee shop is garnering national attention.
According to OregonLive, writer Nancy Rommelmann and Penthouse Magazine columnist Leah McSweeney created a new YouTube channel titled #MeNeither in which they call into question “the honesty and motives of sexual assault survivors,” many of whom are part of the #MeToo movement. For their 20-minute first episode, Rommelmann and McSweeney discuss “toxic femininity,” specifically Rose McGowan and Asia Argento, actors who have both accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. In the video, Rommelmann and McSweeney call into question the reliability and motivations of the actresses, referring to the as “fame eaters,” according to Willamette Week.
Rommelmann is the wife of Ristretto Roasters owner Din Johnson and herself has been referred to as a part-owner, according to OregonLive, causing the controversy to bleed over into the coffee space. Ristretto denies that Rommelmann is involved in the ownership of the company, telling The Oregonian, ”Nancy is neither an owner nor employee of Ristretto.” The opinions expressed by Rommelmann and McSweeney have led many to state they would no longer support the coffee shop. Since the backlash, both Rommelmann and Johnson have stated that she has not had any affiliation with the company for many years now, though OregonLive found evidence of Rommelmann’s involvement—in the form of liquor licenses and company emails—as recently as May 2018. As of time of publication, Rommelmann is not listed as a co-owner according to the Oregon Secretary of State.
In response, an open letter condemning the blog has been penned by former Ristretto employee Camila Coddou and signed by 30 current and former employees of the coffee shop, which we are printing in full:
Nancy Rommelmann is an established author and journalist within Portland. A few weeks ago she started a Youtube channel with columnist and podcast host Leah McSweeney, titled “#meneither”. This channel currently consists of three videos in which they have in-depth discussions denying the experiences of sexual assault survivors and questioning their credibility, qualify gradations of sexual violence in order to label some as more valid than others, and espousing the idea that trauma is a personal choice.
Nancy Rommelmann also one of the owners of Ristretto Roasters, a local roasting company that has employed and served people within our community for over a decade. As former and current Ristretto employees we feel it is our duty to come forward and publicly denounce the perspectives shared on Rommelmann’s #meneither Youtube channel. The views shared are misguided, dangerous, and hurtful, and do not represent the values of the Ristretto employees signing off on this letter.
We believe it is a business owner’s responsibility to create a safe and supportive working environment for their employees. Invalidating assault survivors throws into question the safety of Ristretto Roasters as a workplace and has the potential to create a demoralizing and hostile environment for employees and customers alike. This cannot be tolerated.
As the public face of Ristretto, the people who make and serve you your coffee on a daily basis, we have done our best to ensure our customers feel welcomed in a business they can feel good about supporting. It is our hope that in sharing this information we can better inform the community at large and make it clear that we believe survivors. We would like to note that we also speak on behalf of some current employees who agree with the sentiment of this letter but do not wish to attach their name for fear of retribution.
Ristretto Roasters currently has a rating of 2.1 out of 5 on Facebook, with 67 of the total 105 reviews coming after the #MeNeither channel made news.