Now that the Napa Valley Wine Train's unceremonious treatment of eleven women on Saturday has made national headlines and even landed on CBS This Morning, the train company's hired none other than notorious PR guy Sam Singer to help them wade through this mess. As ABC7 reports, Singer says on behalf of the Wine Train that that deleted Facebook post defending staffers' actions was "a mistake," and he also wants everyone to know that no one called the police to make any arrests.
"I think the police were called to ensure that in case there had been liquor consumption that they were okay to drive home," says Singer. "That wasn't the case, so it was unnecessary to have them there."
The group in question was an East Bay-based book club comprised of 10 African American women and one white woman, the oldest of whom was 83, who took an afternoon trip on the Wine Train from Napa to St. Helena on Saturday. Allegedly the group became too loud or "rambunctious," and train staffers say they repeatedly had to tell them to quiet down. As is apparently standard procedure, the women were met at the end of the line in St. Helena by train police and St. Helena police and escorted off, though no charges or arrests were made.
Singer does note, as the Wine Train already did, that removal from the train for drunkenness is not uncommon, and happens about once a month.
But the charges of racial bias in this case, as backed up by at least one witness on the train, combined with one of the women's social media prowess, created a bit of a shitstorm that the Wine Train now doesn't want to impact their business. And they say they want to make a public apology.
Says Singer, "We're trying to reach these book club members and these women so that we can apologize in person and set things straight. We want to respect them and we want them to respect and enjoy the wine train as well."
That last part is a little weird implying they didn't "respect" the train? But maybe they'll manage to skirt any sort of lawsuit.
Update: Singer has delivered. The following statement just arrived in SFist's inbox from wine train CEO Anthony “Tony” Giaccio: "The Napa Valley Wine Train was 100 percent wrong in its handling of this issue. We accept full responsibility for our failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of our guests.”
Giaccio also wrote an apology letter to the Sistahs On the Reading Edge book club saying: “I want to apologize for your experience on the Napa Valley Wine Train on Saturday, Aug. 22. We accept full responsibility for our failures and the entire chain of unfortunate events you experienced.
“Clearly, we knew in advance when we booked your party that you would be loud, fun-loving and boisterous—because you told us during the booking process that you wanted a place where your Club could enjoy each other’s company. Somehow that vital information never made it to the appropriate channels and we failed to seat your group where you could enjoy yourself properly and alert our train’s staff that they should expect a particularly vibrant group.
“We were insensitive when we asked you to depart our train by marching you down the aisle past all the other passengers. While that was the safest route for disembarking, it showed a lack of sensitivity on our part that I did not fully conceive of until you explained the humiliation of the experience and how it impacted you and your fellow Book Club members.
“We also erred by placing an inaccurate post on our Facebook site that was not reflective of what actually occurred. In the haste to respond to criticism and news inquires, we made a bad situation worse by rushing to answer questions on social media. We quickly removed the inaccurate post, but the harm was done by our erroneous post.
"In summary, we were acutely insensitive to you and the members of the Book Club. Please accept my apologies for our many mistakes and failures."