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Monday, April 12, 2021

Brewery CEO resigns amid backlash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Boulevard Brewing CEO Jeff Krum resigned Wednesday amid backlash against the company following allegations of women facing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

A representative for Boulevard confirmed the resignation to 41 Action News.

Krum is the second executive to leave the company in as many days after another leader, identified only as a “a company executive,” was let go Tuesday. Krum had been with Boulevard since the brewery started up in 1989.

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Boulevard employees said in a statement, confirmed by 41 Action News, that Vice President of Marketing Natalie Gershon had left the company.

John McDonald, Boulevard Brewing founder, said in a statement that the company accepted Krum’s resignation “effective immediately.”

“We recognize we have a long path ahead of us not only for our employees but the Kansas City community and beyond,” McDonald said.

The action comes after a former employee, who remains unidentified, posted to Reddit about “a sexist work environment that takes advantage of its employees.”

The employee said Boulevard’s human resources department was aware of the allegations but failed to appropriately address the issues.

Boulevard issued an apology on social media, which some called “tone-deaf,” but deepened its sentiments Tuesday in a longer post to the company’s website.

An additional post surfaced on Reddit from Boulevard employees. A current employee confirmed the statement to 41 Action News.

A team of employees across multiple departments at Boulevard Brewing Company wish to issue the following statement:

Today, we returned power to the people.

After years of begrudgingly trudging through a toxic culture and harmful work environment created and cultivated by certain members of our executive team, we finally have had enough. WE are the ones who make this brewery run, and we have become tired of being overruled, bullied, ignored and utterly misrepresented by inept and insensitive “leaders.” Their lack of accountability and awful missteps this week were the last straw – so today, we raised our voices and our voices were heard.

Through our efforts, (former) President Jeff Krum has stepped down from the company and no longer will our brewery be clouded and characterized by his indifference, ego, pride and lack of humanity. We can find, and desperately deserve, a leader who actually represents our values and acts on them.

Our additional desire for the removal of Vice President of Marketing Natalie Gershon was also fulfilled. Natalie’s condescension, stifling of employee voices and constant protection and parroting of Jeff’s harmful commentary had significantly contributed to the brewery’s hostile environment. No more.

The reputation of Boulevard has been severely tarnished, and our inner workings are now in a state of repair, but with these two root sources and guardians of toxicity and problematic behavior gone, it will be a much easier process building ourselves back up.

Going forward, we – as a collective – will insist on and accept nothing less than maintaining a brewery culture where employees are heard, misconduct is not tolerated or brushed aside, and we return to operating in the best interest of ALL Boulevardians, not just those at the top of the food chain.

The people have spoken. And we promise to stay loud when it comes to doing what’s right. We’re taking our brewery back.

Meanwhile, consumers and businesses across the Kansas City metro — and beyond — have vowed to boycott Boulevard until changes are made. That includes Justine Spells, co-owner of Railroad Square Craft Housee in Tallahassee, Florida.

A fellow female in a mostly male-dominated business, she saw the initial Reddit post in a forum for women involved with craft beer.

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“I feel very strongly about how women are treated … because there is a stigma with this industry, as well,” Spells said.

Spells said Boulevard’s initial post that stated there “was no harassment of discrimination” didn’t sit well with her.

“I chose to pull them from the shelf,” Spells said, “and actually my assistant was here that night. And I said, ‘No more, I don’t care what you do with them.’ I said, ‘Just get rid of them, they can go down the drain.’ And they went down the drain.”

However, she said she is open to giving Boulevard a chance in the future — just not until she has seen evidence of a change in Boulevard’s culture.

Copyright 2021 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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