[Posted December 4, 2020]
Following a complaint about an employee at the Hillsdale Liquor store on the social networking site Nextdoor, owner Bruce Randall has issued an apology and announced that the employee in question no longer works at the store.
A Nextdoor Hillsdale member created a post on November 14 titled “Bad experience at the Hillsdale liquor store.” The poster said that her husband had encountered an employee wearing a mask that did not cover his nose who “went on a rant . . . about how Covid-19 was a hoax” and that she was sharing the information for those who might want to avoid this store for their own safety.
Randall, a resident of Lake Oswego, was not aware of the Nextdoor conversation until alerted by a friend who is a member of Nextdoor Bridlemile. She posted an apology on his behalf to the Nextdoor conversation about the complaint on November 17:
“To our Hillsdale neighbors, please accept my apology for the poor behavior of our employee regarding the use of his mask and the statements [he] has shared in our store. Despite what opinions he may hold, Hillsdale Liquor fully expects all employees, vendors, and customers to wear a mask that fully covers their mouth and nose. Additionally, our store holds firm to capacity, social distancing, and sanitizing standards. His behavior has been addressed and we hope that our team has learned from the situation. As the owner for the past nine years, we have worked to improve the store, represent the neighborhood with respect and provide you with a friendly, knowledgeable shopping experience. Thank you for supporting our store and good health to all. Bruce Randall”
Randall extended the apology as well to the two customers who emailed him about the employee. He is now awaiting approval of a Nextdoor business account so he will be able to respond directly to any issues that may come up in the future.
In a recent phone call, Randall explained that because the employee worked limited hours on Friday evenings and Saturday and Sundays, he was not aware of his behavior and lack of compliance with mask requirements. When he learned of the complaints “I was horrified,” he said. “The behavior of our employee was highly inappropriate and does not represent who we are.”
He was aware of the employee’s views on COVID, Randall says, and had instructed him that it was not appropriate for him to share his personal opinions with customers during his shifts and that he was expected to abide by all state-mandated safety requirements, including those regarding mask-wearing.
Hillsdale Liquor has operated under the strict protocols issued by the governor’s office since March, including distancing and capacity standards as well as sanitizing, Randall said. “When the state mandated masks we embraced that as well and required that masks be worn not only by customers but most certainly by employees and vendors as well.” The governor’s office mandated that employees in businesses wear masks as part of the phase 1 re-opening in Multnomah County on June 19.
Randall declined to identify the employee or provide further details on his departure from the store, except to say that he no longer works there as a direct result of the complaints.
Liquor sales have increased everywhere since the beginning of the pandemic, and Randall says that overall sales at Hillsdale Liquor are up as well. Sales to bars and restaurants, which make up roughly half of their business, have declined since the pandemic restrictions put in place by Governor Kate Brown, but have been more than replaced by sales to individuals. In fact, “the day before Thanksgiving was the largest volume day we’ve ever had at the Hillsdale store,” he says.
Uptown Liquor in NW Portland, also owned by Randall, has been vandalized and broken into repeatedly over the past several months and has been covered in plywood since the beginning of the summer.
Randall emphasizes that he welcomes feedback and notes that he values and respects the Hillsdale community. Since taking over the store in 2012 he has strived to be a good neighbor, he says, pointing to the improvements he has made to the store as well as his time spent on the board of the Hillsdale Community Foundation.
The Nextdoor post generated 91 comments before it was closed four days later, some with similar complaints about poor masking and general rudeness at the store, others sharing their positive experiences. Following Randall’s apology, some posters declared that they felt the apology was sincere and sufficient and that they would continue to patronize the store.
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