Platform Beer employees stage walkout at Downtown Columbus taproom

A sign posted to the door, the validity of which was confirmed in a phone call with a now-former employee, reads, ‘The entire Platform Columbus crew has quit. The taproom is closed.’

Platform Beer Co.'s Columbus taproom at 408 N. Sixth St., photographed on Oct. 10, 2019.

News broke via social media on Saturday afternoon that the employees of Platform Beer Co.’s Columbus taproom, located at 408 N. Sixth St., had staged a walkout. In an image circulating on Twitter and Facebook, a sign reads, “The entire Platform Columbus crew has quit. The taproom is closed until further notice. Thank you!”

Oliver Northern, who had been with the company since March 2020, said in a phone call Saturday that the employees started seriously discussing walking out about a week ago, frustrated by a growing list of grievances that he said the company had not taken steps to address. He said three of the taproom’s half-dozen remaining employees met at the Downtown location around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday (Feb. 27), posting the sign on the door and then sharing images of the sign, along with an open letter, via Instagram Stories.

Calls to the taproom went unanswered, and emails sent to Platform Beer management, as well as to Anheuser-Busch InBev, which purchased Platform Beer in 2019, did not receive an immediate response. (Update: Read Platform's statement below.)

In the open letter, signed by “The entire Columbus Taproom Staff” and addressed to Platform Beer co-owner Justin Carson, employees allege that the steps Platform Columbus has taken in terms of COVID-19 mitigation have been performative and done without regard to employee safety. The statement alleges that a kitchen staffer tested positive for COVID-19, but the taproom never closed, nor were contact tracer sheets used to notify the public.

“We thought they were doing a good job [with COVID] in the beginning. … The spacing in the taproom is well done, and there are plexiglass dividers,” said Northern, going on to note that he believed the company had fallen short in terms of sanitation and contact tracing following a handful of instances where employees tested positive for the coronavirus. “There was one time a driver came down from Cleveland and they let us know he had come down with COVID and we should get tested. But just that one time. When other employees got COVID, we didn’t hear it from management. We just heard it from being close and talking to each other.”

The letter also claims that pandemic-era profits have been earned on the backs of staffers who are often tasked with working short-handed and for meager wages (“bartenders work seven or eight hours to walk away with $12 in tips,” the letter alleges), among other health and safety concerns, such as allegations of a lingering, unaddressed black mold outbreak in a back cooler that serves as a food storage area.

“The shortsightedness of massively downsizing labor costs, under-appreciating employees, and ignoring the health and safety of staff in more ways than one is frustrating, and we think the brand and staff both suffer for it,” the letter reads, in part, closing with: “For the reasons listed above and others, we have all resigned. The taproom is closed and locked.”

Northern said the group initially discussed staging the walkout as a bargaining tool with management and even considered including a list of demands in the open letter. Ultimately, though, enough employees decided that, even if certain terms were met, conditions had deteriorated to a point where there was no longer any interest in staying on with the company.

“We wanted to inspire the workers at the other [Platform] locations first and foremost, to stand up and not let the company have this kind of power over us,” Northern said of what the group hopes to accomplish with this walkout. “And then also to the service workers in general, because there’s no service workers union here [in Columbus] that we could find, and it just seems like we’re being taken advantage of across the board.”

Update: Platform Beer Co. has issued a statement, which you can read in its entirety below.

Today, Feb. 27, several employees at our Columbus taproom location abruptly resigned. We take this action extremely seriously and we are currently gathering more information about the issues that were raised. While we meet with current and former employees to learn more, we are temporarily closing our Columbus taproom.

Over the last year, our priority has been the health and safety of our employees and our guests. We have implemented health and safety protocols that closely follow CDC and local health authority guidelines, including contact tracing and proper communication following positive cases of COVID-19.   

Platform was founded in 2014 on the premise that collaboration should be the cornerstone of everything that we do. This principle guides us as we brew beer and work to support the communities in our six locations across Ohio. Since day one, we have prided ourselves on working together to be the best brewer in the state and supporting our full team that works so hard toward that goal.

We are committed to making sure all of our employees know that their feedback will be heard anytime and anywhere. Starting on Monday, we will be scheduling small group conversations with all employees, across all locations as an open forum to ask questions so we can address any issues immediately. 

-Justin Carson & Paul Benner, Platform co-founders