The owners of popular Castro cookie shop Hot Cookie are now the subject of some accusations of racist commentary and sexual assault by a group of employees, who have spearheaded a boycott campaign and an effort to drive down the shop's Yelp rating.
The employees, led by Stella Gutierrez, claim that current co-owner Paul Perretta has used “racially discriminatory” speech in the workplace, including "the hard n-word," and that co-owner Tony Roug has "sexually assaulted more than 5 employees." Gutierrez posted the accusations on her Instagram account on Wednesday, claiming that they were being publicized two weeks after employees submitted a formal list of demands to management which included a third-party HR facilitator.
According to Roug, there are also two other owners/investors in the business.
The post has garnered thousands of likes, and has been reposted, and the store's Yelp page has been subsequently flooded with one-star reviews.
Roug has issued a statement to the Chronicle in response, but has not addressed the specific accusations. "At this point the only response from Hot Cookie is that we certainly want to create an environment free of sexual assault and racial discrimination,” Roug says. "We’re totally on board with this change."
Gutierrez, a queer woman of color, tells the Chronicle that she is pushing for both owners to "step down from the company." "These people have been dismissive of our concerns for so long. Most of the workers there are people of color, and what they’re doing, how they’re just not listening, is a form of white supremacy," Gutierrez says.
In an Instagram story, Gutierrez adds that she was told by one of the owners not to play Mexican music in the shop because "this is a bakery not a taqueria."
Roug added, speaking to the Chronicle, "We’re kind of fascinated that four white gay men are being labeled as white supremacist. That’s a tag we never thought we would have been characterized with. It’s sad but we understand why it could happen since we’re a group of white owners."
Perretta and Roug bought Hot Cookie from founder Dan Glazer in 2015. Known to friends as Dan the Cookie Man, Glazer had first opened a successful cookie business in Santa Cruz before relocating to the Castro and opening Hot Cookie in the former Double Rainbow Ice Cream shop. As he told Hoodline, he noticed that a Mrs. Fields location had closed on 18th Street, and decided he should fill the cookie void.
Glazer had resisted the idea of expansion, despite the success of his brand and the quality of his cookies, but Perretta and Roug were keen to expand from the outset, telling Hoodline they planned to open a second Hot Cookie in Chicago's Boystown.
But a second SF location of the store did make it open earlier this year — the second Hot Cookie debuted on Polk Street on February 1.
On the business's website, Roug and his team wrote of the ownership change, "What has not changed is Hot Cookie’s dedication to reflecting and supporting the spirit of the Castro community and its rich history. Even with all the vast changes within the LGBTQ community and in the Castro since Hot Cookie was started, there remains a need for spaces that are not just safe and supportive, but that celebrate queer identity and self-expression. Hot Cookie reflects the playful, creative, and sex positive spirit of the Castro."