Some of Canada’s most prominent restaurants are distancing themselves from Norman Hardie, removing his wines from their menus after more than 20 people alleged sexual misconduct by the famed winemaker.
Mr. Hardie released an apology on Wednesday, the day after a Globe and Mail investigation detailed allegations from three women who say he subjected them to unwanted sexual contact, and 18 others who described sexual harassment. “To all those who felt marginalized, demeaned or objectified while working for or alongside me, I am truly very sorry,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. He maintained that “some of the allegations made against me are not true, but many are.” He did not specify which ones.
Still, some restaurants across Ontario and Quebec − where Mr. Hardie’s influence has been most pronounced − acted quickly. By Wednesday, several major firms said they are no longer offering his wines. In Ontario, this included the Joey chain, the Drake Hotel properties, Chase Hospitality Group and Wilder and Rose. In Montreal, Monkland Tavern joined the Joe Beef restaurants, which had already stopped carrying Mr. Hardie’s wines.
One notable exception was the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the Crown corporation that distributes alcohol in the province, and one of the world’s largest buyers and retailers of wine. “At this time, we leave the choice to purchase Norman Hardie products in the hands of our customers,” the LCBO said in a statement.
The Globe investigation this week included the accounts of two women − one a former employee, another who worked at a restaurant with close ties to the winery − who said Mr. Hardie groped them. Another former employee said Mr. Hardie tried to kiss her on her first day at work.
In response, Mr. Hardie told The Globe earlier: “I do not physically grab people or touch them against their will.” He later acknowledged trying to kiss the former employee.
An additional 18 people told The Globe they were subjected to lewd or sexually explicit comments. Several women said he commented on their bodies or undergarments. Others said he asked questions about their sex lives. Others said they were deliberately exposed to pornography.
Mr. Hardie’s statement said an independent review conducted on the winery as a result of The Globe’s inquiries earlier this year “did not find any examples of sexual harassment in the workplace today.” He acknowledged that “there is still work to be done, particularly as it applies to me personally,” and vowed to “work hard every day to earn back your trust…”
But many restaurant owners said they had made up their minds.
“I am not supporting someone who is accused of something like that by so many,” said Monkland Tavern’s co-owner, Barbara Irwin.
“I was carrying his wines until this morning,” said Victoria Bazan, the owner of Toronto’s Honest Weight restaurant. “I came in this morning and changed my wine list.”
Even long-time friends of Mr. Hardie, such as Anthony Rose (of the Wilder and Rose group of restaurants), said they would no longer carry his wines. Mr. Rose, who has known Mr. Hardie for more than 20 years, said he has never witnessed any of the behaviour outlined in the report. “Honestly, I’m heartbroken,” he said.
Others, such as Mark McEwan, whose McEwan Group includes restaurants, grocery stores, and a catering arm, said he will double-check his wine lists.
“If they’re on the list, they’re going to come off,” he said. “There’s no place for [abuse] in business,” he said.
Grant van Gameren, who owns restaurants across Toronto, said he has not carried Hardie wines for some time. And after The Globe’s story, he said he will “absolutely not” carry them in the future.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s George Brown College cancelled a tour of Prince Edward County scheduled for this weekend that included lunch at Mr. Hardie’s winery.
Still, many of the industry’s most prominent voices were silent.
The Wine Council of Ontario sent a letter to its member wineries urging them to “redirect” questions to a spokesperson at the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario. That spokesperson, in turn, said the group would not give interviews.
Many well-known chefs and restaurant companies contacted by The Globe did not respond to requests for comment.
David McMillan, the co-owner of Montreal’s Joe Beef, a former friend of Mr. Hardie, described the silence as “loud and clear.”
“I am disappointed in my peers in the food and wine industry for failing to stand up,” he said.
With reports from Nadine Yousif