Signs have gone up in the Mission urging patrons to boycott the Phoenix Irish Pub on Valencia Street to protest a decision by its owner to fire seven female employees.
The signs read: “Shitty business practices!! The owner fired entire female bar staff (not male staff) without any warning or reason and lied about closing the bar, only to reopen the same day with all new staff. There are other bars nearby don’t give this bar your money!”
While it is unclear who is posting them or who is calling for the boycott, they do summarize the accusations Phoenix’s former manager, Marissa Poulin, has lodged against the pub’s owner, Eugene Power. Poulin, who had worked there for nearly a decade, was among those fired.
“Ten years of loyalty working for him and he just fires the entire crew for no reason,” Poulin wrote in a long screed that was also shared with Broke-Ass Stuart, who wrote about the incident last week.
It’s not the first time Power has fired employees without giving a reason. All three of the employees Mission Local spoke to had been fired without explanation in 2014, including Poulin.
Last Sunday, she said, Power showed up and told her the pub was closing for good, and that she and the other six female employees would find their checks in the mail. “He went into the kitchen and started talking to them, so I thought he meant everyone,” she said.
But the rest of the staff remained, and an hour later at around 4 p.m., she checked the bar’s security cameras. The doors were back open and “a new girl” was behind the bar, serving customers.
The mass firing, she said, boiled down to Power suspecting the bar staff — primarily composed of female employees — of stealing booze or giving it away too freely. She said that notion is absurd and accused Power, an absentee owner who resides in Novato, of being paranoid.
“He thinks since we are all friends that I was aware that everyone is giving away drinks for free and over-pouring and I was covering their asses and that’s why he’s going out of business,” she said, denying that she and the others were stealing booze.
On Monday morning, Mission Local showed an image of the poster to a man who identified himself as the bar’s owner, standing outside the bar on Valencia Street. “I wouldn’t write about that,” he said in an Irish accent. “It’s slander.”
A call later placed to Power was not immediately returned.
The word on the street, however, is that the Phoenix is indeed tanking.
“From what I heard, sales were down very significantly,” said a local bar owner who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. “Not a 10 percent drop — like 50 or 60 percent. Their sales were down one year over the next.”
The local owner said that was not surprising as, nowadays, bars that serve relatively cheap drinks and food are having trouble covering the rising costs of rent and labor. “With costs so high, we’re going to see dive bars and restaurants that serve cheap food disappear,” the owner said.
The owner did not disagree with Powers’ actions. “It didn’t surprise me to see another place have to take drastic measures,” they said. “The calls for boycotting them without known the whole story are premature. It’s really hard.”
But the fired employees see it differently.
Michele Kramer, who was fired last Sunday, said she has been considering taking legal action. “I can’t give an explanation why it was all us women,” she said. “It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen with an all-female staff.”
The 28-year-old Kramer has worked for the Phoenix off and on, most recently for the last six months. Four years ago, the same thing happened to her. “I had been working there for a year, he called me on a whim and fired me,” she said. “He gave no reason.”
“I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country, and to be let go on a whim’s notice is disheartening,” she added. “To have this happen before and have it happen again … it’s had a pretty shitty effect.”
Likewise, Power fired Ashley Melanson in 2014, a month after Kramer. He did not give a reason, she said.
“I was fired, along with at least four others four years ago, but this didn’t happen all at once, they were one at a time over the span of a few weeks,” she said in an email.
Like the others, Melanson said she agreed with a boycott. “I do not believe Eugene Power deserves anyone’s hard-earned money; he clearly has no respect or concern for the seven women he fired,” she said. “I would be very happy if he continues to lose business.”
Some customers are already jumping ship.
Liam Passmore, one of a group of some 20 people who migrate to the Phoenix after their weekend tennis matches at Mission Playground, wrote a letter to Power after he learned of the incident.
In it, he says he and the 13 others who signed it would be going elsewhere this past weekend.
“I pointed out … that he’s making it hard to be loyal to the restaurant by treating his employees so callously,” Passmore said.
“And, indeed, this weekend we went somewhere else.”