Many Mela Kitchen staff members quit around alleged inappropriate atmosphere

According to former Lead Server Emily Kate Hessler, 16 employees of Mt Joy Township’s Mela’s Kitchen left their jobs on Friday evening in response to what they considered inappropriate behavior from the restaurant’s owner, Donald Hoffman.

Hessler said there had been a history of verbal abuse and other inappropriate behavior toward employees by Hoffman, but that the walkout was precipitated when they were asked to serve a new white-colored cocktail called “The Caucasian.”

mela

According to Hessler, many staff members said they did not find the cocktail name appropriate.

“Hoffman told me and a coworker that he hates political correctness and that anyone who has an issue needs to ‘buckle up,’ because next week he would release a black cocktail called ‘The Negro,’ said Hessler.

Hessler said Executive Chef Josh Fidler supported the staff’s decision to walk out and was fired that evening, although he had already given notice of his intention to leave.

“We were strictly there because we love Josh and the work and our colleagues, despite the owner being horrible. This was the last thing – he can’t get away with it. He hasn’t had people brave enough to really fight it,” said Hessler

Hessler said two very prominent employees had also quit recently due to poor working conditions.

Hessler said the staff requested to be allowed to hold a meeting to discuss the issues before leaving but were not permitted to do so, and that Hoffman threatened to call the police if they remained in the building.

“He said if I didn’t walk by 4:00 p.m. or stop being offended by ‘every little thing,’ he would call the police. I realized a meeting wasn’t going to happen and I might be taken by state police,” she said.

“We put up with a lot from this owner but I refuse to represent racism. It’s disgusting and his response to being called out is even more repulsive,” said Hessler.

In Facebook posts that have now been deleted, Hoffman said he was not a racist and that he would hold a meeting this morning to explain his side of the story.  But a later post from Hoffman said the meeting had been postponed.

Attempts to reach Hoffman by messaging and telephone calls were unsuccessful.

The restaurant’s website is not responsive today. A sign near the door said they planned to reopen Friday at 11:00 a.m.

chuck

Charles (Chuck) Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Owner, Publisher, and Editor in Chief. I would like to hear from you. Please contact me at cstangor@gettysburgconnection.org.

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Cathy Diehl
Cathy Diehl
1 year ago

I applaud the staff for the walk out! Slave wages by an owner with this attitude are beyond ALL of you! I’ll wager that most of his clientele is “Caucasian”. I’ll never spend a dime there!!

Joe sites
1 year ago

Oh God…here we go again! This is racist..that is racist. These people have too much time on their hands! I have eaten in that restaurant many times and this kind of nonsense will only make me go back even more now!! I hope everybody in and around Gettysburg goes to this restaurant and supports it 100%. As far as those employees are concerned….go get another job somewhere else! Bunch of cry babies!!

William Gilmartin
William Gilmartin
1 year ago

For two or three years, Mela was my favorite Gettysburg area restaurant, with virtually each dish an epiphany. In the last few months, red pepper flakes have infiltrated most dishes, making many of them inedible for spice sensitive diners. This latest flap over owner edicts could be the end of what was a very good thing.

Alana Di Rienzo
Alana Di Rienzo
1 year ago

This whole situation makes me frustrated. Mela was one of my favorite places in Gettysburg. I appreciate this article to others because it didn’t make it seem the situation was strictly over drink names. The article brought together the whole picture. I do have concerns because The Gettysburg Outlets seem to be losing steam since Covid and I hoped the shopping center would breed new life with the success of Mela Kitchen and tourism season. I don’t know who owns the Gettysburg Outlets but whoever does, might want to consider making the place a nice shopping center. Maybe bring wine… Read more »

Very Sad Mela Diner
Very Sad Mela Diner
1 year ago

We LOVED Mela 🙁 Regularly drove over an hour to enjoy THE BEST funky, F2T menu in the Gettysburg area. To the Chefs and Staff we send our love and say “Thank You! It was a great ride!” To the owner: please consider exorcising the ghost of Dan Sickles, apologizing, and put the band back together. You had a great thing going, and this really doesn’t have to be a choice of woke or broke (only more cowbell). LOVE your people and give them a chance to love you back. I’ve spent thousands of dollars there and I would Love… Read more »

Donald
Donald
1 year ago

Terrific reporting

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