Remember Chicken John Rinaldi? The Mission District resident and onetime party maven who ran for mayor against Gavin Newsom in 2007 and staged a "Puke-In" in Dolores Park a decade ago when Rec & Parks was considering allowing Blue Bottle to operate a coffee cart there? Well, he's now been "fired" from Ritual Coffee, which was founded by his wife, after he was heard using the N-word in a contentious exchange over a parking spot in the Mission.
A tipster wrote in last week to tell SFist that an employee at Robin's Cafe on 17th Street had heard Rinaldi use the N-word in an argument with "several men," and the tipster hoped that he would be "held responsible" for this.
As the Chronicle reports, the incident happened across the street from Ritual's warehouse in late May, where Rinaldi has apparently been overseeing a construction project.
Rinaldi tells the Chronicle that he was only repeating what the man arguing over a parking spot had said to him. That man was Black.
"[He] asked me and I quote: ‘What’s your name, bitch ass N------?’ To which I, unfortunately replied: ‘Yup, that’s my name. Bitch ass N------,’” Chicken John says. “I have apologized for repeating the derogatory word that was shouted at me. A word I never, ever use. I regret the incident, and feel terrible about it. I am deeply disappointed in myself for meeting hostility with hostility, and allowing the situation to escalate."
Eileen Rinaldi, who already faced a reckoning over race at Ritual a year ago, tells the Chronicle that the incident was "extremely upsetting," and her husband will no longer be employed by Ritual in any way.
As Mission Local reported last year, Eileen Rinaldi was held to account by employees in particular over incidents in which the police were called on people of color — and there was reportedly an incident in February 2019 in which Chicken John made one such call. While Chicken John does not necessarily work the barista counter, he has been known to do maintenance work on Ritual's multiple stores since marrying Eileen Rinaldi in 2012.
A white operations manager at Ritual resigned in 2020 following an incident in which she called the police on a person of color who got into a verbal altercation with a counter person.
Eileen Rinaldi took to Instagram last week to describe the incident with her husband, saying that any use of the N-word is intolerable and dehumanizing.
"I have made mistakes and I’m learning," she wrote. "I am committed to doing the necessary work of continuously evolving how we are an anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable business and place for our employees, customers, and community. And I embrace that this work has no closure. We need to work on it every month and year and for the life of the business."
Ritual currently operates four coffee shops in San Francisco and Napa, after closing one outpost in the Castro last year. The shop opened on Valencia Street to near instant success in 2005, with former partner Jeremy Tooker leaving two years later to found Four Barrel Coffee. Tooker was later accused of sexual assault and harassment in a 2018 lawsuit, which was quickly settled out of court — and Tooker himself left Four Barrel in late 2017 and divested himself of his share of the business.