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An illustration depicts shards of glass encapsulating scenes of workers’ positive and negative experiences at the popular wine bar chain Tria.

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Xtremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Philadelphia restaurateur Jon Myerow publicly champions progressive change in the restaurant industry, but numerous former Tria workers allege that he created a work environment defined by angry outbursts, sexualized comments, and workplace relationships that made some staffers uncomfortable

When Rayne Betts started work on October 1, 2018, one of the first hints of anger she noticed in her boss was in a phone conversation about an upset customer. Betts worked as the restaurant manager at Tria, a small chain of wine bars owned by longtime Philadelphia restaurateur Jon Myerow. A regular had left the restaurant angry a few nights prior; Myerow called, demanding to know what had happened. Betts explained that the customer was upset about changes to Tria’s loyalty program. Myerow was frustrated, Betts recalls, yet the conversation “seemed normal.”

But after Myerow arrived at Tria’s Rittenhouse location later that day, Betts says he grew increasingly angry, yelling at her over minor infractions, like allowing a staff member to eat lunch during a slow period or momentarily stepping off the floor to print an inventory list. By the afternoon, Betts says Myerow was reprimanding her so loudly that at least two other Tria staff members elsewhere in the restaurant could hear him. “Why were you off the floor?” Betts remembers Myerow yelling. In an attempt to de-escalate, Betts says she told him that they could talk later, and went back to work.

When the two talked outside on Sansom Street a few hours later, Betts says Myerow began the conversation with an apology, and while Betts accepted, she added that “you can’t treat me like this.” “He then started his explanation of why he acted the way he did, only mentioning stress and wanting Tria to succeed,” she says. When Betts responded that Myerow still couldn’t yell at her the way that he had that day and that she had done nothing wrong, she alleges that Myerow “flipped a switch,” and began to yell at her again — this time in front of guests, passersby, and staff.

In a written account that Betts was asked to share with Tria’s board of investors in the spring of 2019 and that was subsequently reviewed by Eater, Betts wrote that Myerow yelled at her that day, “I don’t have to apologize for anything. I’m not Brett Kavanaugh,” and “Back in the day we used to hit people and we had better run restaurants than we do now.” Again, as Myerow was yelling, Betts says she attempted to de-escalate, saying they could schedule a meeting for the following day, then went back to work.

The next day, Myerow, now-former Tria co-owner Michael McCaulley, and Betts sat at a round table in a private room, with McCaulley to Betts’s left and Myerow across from her, while the general manager sat at another table nearby. The conversation again started with an apology. “But shortly thereafter things took a turn,” Betts says. “[Myerow] started to raise his voice and say, ‘You can’t tell me how to run my restaurant.’” Myerow continued to raise his voice, but Betts says no one else said anything. As he became visibly angrier, Betts began to feel frightened.

Betts had seen Myerow upset before, but the way his anger continued to boil over felt especially threatening to her that day. No matter what Betts said, he continued to yell at her, so she implored McCaulley and the other manager to step in. Finally, she says, McCaulley leaned over the table, inserting himself between her and Myerow, and said, “Maybe we need to have this conversation a different day.” Betts then left the room and went back to the restaurant. “I wanted to be around people because his yelling and the way he was coming — physically coming at me — was so violent.”

Shortly thereafter, the manager found Betts polishing glassware upstairs at the restaurant, and told her, “You can’t be here.” The manager took her into the bathroom and locked the door, apologizing repeatedly and hugging her. After some time had passed, Betts said in her account, the manager went to check if Myerow was still in the building, telling Betts to lock the door behind her when she left. Betts stayed locked in the bathroom, terrified. When the manager, assisted by McCaulley, confirmed Myerow was gone, Betts came out of the bathroom. Still absorbing the events of the day, Betts once again went back to work.

“[In the restaurant industry], a lot of times people will yell and you just get over it,” Betts says. “Chefs will yell, managers will yell. I’ve worked in this industry for a very long time and I’ve never had anything like that happen to me.”

“It’s true that other restaurant owners used to hit their employees,” Myerow said in an email. “I never have done so, never have threatened to do so, and never would do that.” Myerow admits that he “raised [his] voice” when he spoke to Betts, because “when [he] entered the restaurant during lunch, there were approximately 20 guests, and no one was working on the floor – not one team member.” (Emphasis his.) He says, however, that he did not “lose [his] temper” and was unaware that a manager had locked Betts in a bathroom, fearing for her safety. “If that occurred, I know nothing about it and, more importantly, I never said or did anything that would have caused a reasonable person to react that way.”

The facade of Tria Fitler Square
Tria Fitler Square

When the first Tria opened at 18th and Sansom streets in 2004, it marketed itself as a casual wine bar with fine dining-level service. Attracting an array of Philly customers, Tria eventually expanded with two additional locations, a taproom, a sister restaurant called Biba, and a food-and-beverage education program. (Tria Fitler Square, Tria Taproom, and Biba have since closed, while the Fermentation School is currently listed as temporarily closed on Google.) Today, Tria, and often Myerow on the restaurant’s behalf, prominently promotes the work of women wine producers, leads efforts to donate to social justice charities, and aims to model the advancement of workers’ rights through its “Tria Promise,” advertised on Tria’s website as a “19-point collection of benefits and practices to help make Tria one of the best independent restaurant companies to work for in Philadelphia.” The promise includes a $15 minimum wage, a retirement plan, mental health reimbursements, and “good times, good vibes.” “Excellent compensation and benefits cannot offset a negative or toxic workplace,” the promise reads.

But former Tria staff members say that the bar’s approachable sensibility and progressive posturing were very different from what it was like to work under Jon Myerow. More than two dozen former staff members allege that he created a work environment defined by angry outbursts, sexualized comments, and workplace relationships that made some staffers uncomfortable. Twenty-three staffers allege that Myerow would yell at managers and back-office employees for minor infractions and would frequently pin the business’s failings on them. Further, 18 former employees allege that he subjected women and people assigned female at birth on his staff to romantic advances and comments about their appearances.

Over the course of reporting this story, I’ve spoken with 37 current and former Tria servers, bartenders, office employees, interns, and managers who worked at the restaurant between 2004 and 2022. Not everyone I spoke to had negative experiences working with Myerow: Ten former and current Tria employees, most of whose names were provided by the restaurant, spoke positively of their experiences working at Tria or with Myerow. Myerow provided 24 resignation letters — with names redacted — from employees who worked at Tria between 2011 and 2021 describing positive experiences as well. However, of those 37 employees, 27 told stories about negative experiences they had at Tria. I have reviewed emails, texts, and internal Tria documents that back up the stories of these former employees, and have additionally corroborated stories with people outside of the Tria workplace who were told these stories by friends and family members contemporaneously.

Some former employees say that Tria’s progressive, worker-friendly public brand and messaging contradicted their experiences working at the restaurant in years prior. In the spring of 2021, around the time that local establishments like Tired Hands Brewing Company — with whom Tria held trainings — were being called out for alleged poor behavior in the workplace, former Tria director of marketing, cheese director, and beverage manager Sande Friedman posted an account on Instagram about her experience working for “a man who crossed an inexplicable number of professional boundaries.” Though Friedman never named the man in her post, in several subsequent conversations with Eater, Friedman described in detail her negative work relationship with Myerow, providing both sources and documentation to corroborate the experiences she first referenced on Instagram.

As Myerow is a 30-year veteran of — and an outspoken advocate for — the Philadelphia restaurant industry, a number of people who were interviewed for this story and spoke candidly about their experiences requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation. (Pseudonyms are denoted with asterisks.) The former vice president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association and a founding board member of the new political action committee Philly Forward, Myerow is prominent in the restaurant industry: In 2021, his newest establishment, Bar Poulet, earned a Best of Philly nod from Philadelphia Magazine.

“I am proud of the workplace culture we have nurtured at Tria for the past 18 years. The culture in our restaurants has always been positive,” Myerow wrote in an email. “Whenever morale suffers in a particular location, we immediately work on fixing it. Our culture is educational, demanding, fair and fun. It’s not the right environment for everyone, yet so many team members have thrived here.”

The recipe for Tria’s blend of affability and exacting service was laid out in a 128-page handbook for managers titled, “How to Run a Great Freakin’ Restaurant.” In addition to enforced positivity — servers should come “prepared to rock-out pre-shift side work” — appearances were of particular concern. The restaurant group’s 2016 staff handbook mentions twice that servers should dress like they’re going on a “hot date” when at work. Elsewhere it reads, “Remember: This is Philadelphia, not Peoria! Ladies are to dress like ladies and gentlemen are to dress like gentlemen.” Discomfort with the manual’s language, tone, or expectations are framed as personal failings. “Your (yes, this means you) appearance plays a huge role in Tria’s image,” the manual says. “Your tips and Tria’s image depend on it.” (Emphasis Tria’s.)

The focus on appearance could go beyond how an employee dressed: Four former employees allege that Myerow scanned the social media profiles of women applying for jobs to gauge whether he considered them attractive.

“Jon would always look people up on Facebook and comment on their attractiveness before we hired them,” says Kristen*, a former Tria office staff member. Kristen alleges that the practice resulted in Myerow remarking on at least one potential Black candidate, insinuating she wasn’t a good fit for Tria based on her race.

According to three sources, Tria historically employed few servers of color. “I was always the only Black person working at Tria,” Tsehaitu Abye, a server and bartender who worked at both of the Tria cafes and Tria Taproom roughly between 2014 and 2017, says. Abye says if there were other people of color working there, she never saw them, “and we were probably one of two people [of color].”

Myerow denied making the statement that a prospective employee might not be a fit for Tria due to their race, saying that he does not discriminate — but he does search candidates online “to do research” on “any red flags.” (He declined to elaborate on what constituted a red flag.) He also said that Tria has “had and still [has] many people of color working [there].”

Five staff members who worked in Tria’s back office say it was common to hear Myerow make inappropriate comments about women. Though Myerow primarily worked out of the office — which was previously located in the Medical Arts Building in Center City, separate from the Tria locations — he was a fixture at Tria’s weekly staff beer and wine trainings and classes, which were attended by both restaurant and office staff. Sande Friedman, who began working at Tria in 2011 and eventually became its director of marketing, cheese director, and beverage manager, working directly under Myerow, says that the office staff felt obligated to hang around whenever he did.

After working with Myerow for two years, Friedman couldn’t ignore what she considered red flags with his behavior. For example, she noticed that Myerow would hang out and continue drinking after staff trainings, or that he would comment on female staff members’ appearances to the small group of people who worked in the office. “Oh, her tits looked great at training today,” Friedman and at least four other former staffers recalled him saying; or he would describe other women as “frumpy and gross,” Friedman says. She recalls at least one instance where Myerow humped his desk while talking about female employees and other times when he held push-up contests with the male staff, creating what at least nine people say felt like a boys’ club environment. (Myerow admitted to creating this type of environment “from time to time” at the Tria office.) Despite her mounting discomfort with Myerow’s behavior before, during, and after these work events, Friedman continued working at Tria.

Myerow denied making these specific comments on staff members’ appearances, but said that “appropriate dress and grooming are important in a business in which we serve the public. So I have made appropriate comments to employees and interns on their choice of clothing.”

Though much of the reported sexually charged behavior surfaced in the office, there were incidents where Myerow’s alleged sexualized behavior was perpetuated out in the open. In 2016, three people say, Myerow nonconsensually touched a former employee. At a Craft Brewers Conference event at Tria Taproom, Priya*, a former server and office worker at Tria, says that Myerow approached her from behind at the event and grabbed her butt while she was standing with a then-current Tria employee. “I turned around and said, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘Trying to surprise you.’”

“I was shocked,” Priya says. “I considered him a friend of mine, and he just completely crossed a boundary, and I more or less haven’t spoken to him since.” (Myerow also acknowledged the incident to Eater, describing it as “a joke” for which he “immediately apologized.”)

That same year, Myerow was interviewed for an article in US Foods’ Food Fanatics magazine about sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. The headline posed the question, “How do you nix sexual harassment?” “We have a formal policy in our handbook. All employees have to sign off on that policy,” he said. “It’s very specific; we have to list the behaviors that we won’t tolerate. It’s not going to work to just say, ‘Don’t harass people.’”

A bartender’s hand holds a glass under a flowing drink tap.
Tria Taproom
Steve Legato

Multiple former employees say that Myerow regularly crossed boundaries, especially with younger staffers who had recently left or were planning to leave the restaurant. Morgan*, a former Tria bar manager, says that Myerow frequently came in on weekends with “young, attractive women who used to work at the restaurant.” Myerow and his guest would typically sit at the bar, she says. “He would buy them lots of beverages, get them kind of tipsy.” (In the 2016 handbook, this behavior was not supposed to be tolerated: “Employees are prohibited from sitting at the main bar when visiting the restaurant. Any employee who violates this policy will be subject to termination.” The handbook goes on to discourage dating between employees and explicitly prohibits displays of affection and favoritism on the premises.)

Kara*, then a 21-year-old university student, worked as an administrative intern in Tria’s back office. She enjoyed the trainings she attended and saw a future for herself in the beer and wine industry, so socializing with her boss felt like a crucial opportunity to advance her fledgling career. When her internship ended, she was asked to stay on to do admin tasks in the office on Fridays. One day, Kara says, Myerow kept asking her out for drinks, but she wasn’t available. She had been taught that “networking is a full-contact sport,” though, so when her college sports schedule changed, she reached out to Myerow to take him up on the drinks offer, hoping to talk about what might be next for her career.

Myerow was working late that night, so she met him at the Tria office in the Medical Arts Building. As the pair made their way out, they walked past a security guard at the door. “[Jon] looks at her [as] we’re walking by and goes, ‘This is my new girlfriend, isn’t she so pretty?’” Kara says. Thinking that they were meeting to discuss her future in the beverage industry, Kara says the comment “was such a gut punch.” She immediately texted four friends to share her location with them.

Myerow took Kara to a bar in Logan Square, where she says he ordered all of their beers. It came up that Kara’s mother had just gotten married, so Kara showed Myerow photos from the wedding. “Then he made comments like, ‘Oh you’re so beautiful,’” Kara says, which made her uncomfortable. “He got me pretty drunk, then he insisted on driving me home,” she says. She later told a friend she was “terrified the whole time” he drove. When she looked up the beers they had been drinking, she found that all of them had a concentration of 8 percent alcohol by volume.

Kara felt that Myerow had exploited the power dynamic between them. “In hindsight, I really want to tell myself ‘you shouldn’t get drinks with him,’ but I was trying to network and trying to do something for myself so that I would be set up for success when I graduated.”

After her year at Tria, Kara hasn’t worked in a restaurant again. “I haven’t even tried to get back into the restaurant industry,” Kara says. “I refuse.”

“I have no recollection of driving an employee home in 2016, which was 6 years ago,” Myerow wrote in a statement. “Over the past 30 years, I have infrequently driven employees home after they had drinks. I have not driven while intoxicated.”

In another instance of Myerow allegedly crossing professional lines, Sam — who asked to be identified by their first name only — started working in the bar at Tria Fitler Square in March 2015, and was fired shortly thereafter. Myerow intervened, Sam says, and moved them to work at the Tria Rittenhouse Square location. When a position opened up in the office not long after, Sam applied, and Myerow hired them. Sam had no restaurant or office experience, so they found it odd that they were being rehired twice into new roles at a company that had just fired them. Sam, who was 24 at the time, says, “Jon would be flirtatious or overtly ogle [me].”

Myerow would “call me nicknames in the office, or be a little bit too intimate, or say he was confiding in me,” Sam says. “There were definitely boundaries crossed.” The attention from Myerow gave Sam mixed feelings. “I felt excited and like I was special,” Sam says. “But, at the time, it made me very uncomfortable and it made me very scared.”

In the winter of 2015, when Sam put in their notice for the office job, Myerow asked them out for drinks. “That’s when things progressed,” Sam says. Sam stayed on to work for another month after giving notice. The night they went out with Myerow, Sam says that they both got very drunk and returned to the office together later that night. Sam recalls feeling scared at the time and calling a friend in the days after and crying.

In emails Myerow wrote to Sam at the beginning of their relationship, he expressed romantic desires for them. While Sam continued to work under Myerow, the pair would go to Myerow’s office to be alone together during and after work hours. According to multiple people, staff speculated and gossiped about their relationship.

During their last week of work, Sam suggested going to a hotel. Sam says Myerow agreed, but then Sam ultimately decided against it, sending Myerow an email attempting to break things off. Sam says at the time they were very confused. “I was trying to slow it down, and I didn’t quite know what was happening.”

Not long after leaving their position at Tria, Sam left Philly, but stayed in contact with Myerow while they were away. When Sam returned to the city in 2019, they met Myerow for drinks “quite a few times.” Sam felt that Myerow was their friend. But they eventually decided to stop responding to Myerow’s messages.

Sam now believes that they were taken advantage of in the relationship. Much like Kara, as a result of their experience working under Myerow, Sam hasn’t worked in restaurants since. “I thought that I was talking to someone who cared about me,” they say. “Looking through all of these emails again, that’s not the way that you interact with someone you care about — your subordinate. You don’t put them in positions that they’re uncomfortable with like that.”

Despite multiple similar accounts of young, female employees being invited out for drinks, Myerow denies ever dating his employees. “My statement to you that none of my professional relationships ever progressed to a sexual relationship is the truth,” he said.

The Tria Bible may have fixated on appearances, but it was equally concerned with service standards. At the outset, the manual urged “xtreme [sic] managers, not okay ones” to commit to “actively (nearly Aerobically!), not Passively, enforcing Tria’s Service Bible and Handbook.” The manual continued: “We have set the bar too high to just settle. If you’re reading this, you have the ability to soar, but do you have the desire? Be honest with yourself and with us. Maybe the xtreme variety of management isn’t your thing.” This expectation of perfection manifested in an exacting work atmosphere where employees — most often managers or members of Tria’s office staff — who didn’t measure up to Myerow’s standards were sometimes berated by Myerow.

“Once you’re a manager, your life is pretty stressful,” Sarah*, a former manager, says. “That’s with any restaurant job. [But] with Tria, they had very high expectations and standards of you. I got phone calls [from Myerow] on days off after working multiple doubles because there was one slightly off-comment Yelp review. Then I would get screamed at about it for 20 minutes while I’m crying and on my day off.”

“I wasn’t aware that high standards were a bad thing,” Myerow says. “We’ve always had high standards.” When asked whether he discussed Yelp reviews with his employees on their days off, Myerow said, “You’re asking if I discuss Yelp reviews with employees? Yes. I did that yesterday. How do you improve your restaurant if you don’t look at what people are saying about it?”

A worker sits on a chair and works at a laptop; a large shadow of another person looms over them. Illustration.

But workers say Myerow’s yelling consistently extended to even minor aspects of daily tasks at Tria. “If Michael [McCaulley] was at the restaurant and he saw that you didn’t fold someone’s linen when they went to the restroom, he would just say, ‘Don’t worry, I saw that,’ and kind of joke around about it,” Betts says. “[Myerow] would pull you aside and yell at you.”

Friedman, the former director of marketing, cheese director, and beverage manager, says that she and Myerow would have lots of fights, particularly around her performance reviews — a fact that was confirmed by several former staff members who were present in the office. “Any time I had a review, which would be about once a year, I’d talk about my accomplishments and I’d ask for a raise,” says Friedman, who had been included in Zagat Philly’s 30-under-30 list for her work at Tria in 2014. “Every single year, [it would] turn into him screaming at me and berating me and telling me that I don’t work hard enough.” In 2015, Friedman started seeing a therapist, where she was able to talk to a third party about the red flags she’d been noticing with her boss, which helped her begin to question them more deeply, too.

In June 2016, Friedman was preparing to leave the office at the end of the workday to teach a class off-site when Myerow called her into his workspace, which was the only room with a door that closed in the Tria office, saying he needed her for a task he claimed was important. When she offered to tackle the task first thing in the morning or later that night, she says that Myerow raised his fist, slammed it on the desk between them, inches away from her, and began to yell. “It was enough for me to think, Oh my god, you’re going to hit me,” Friedman says.

The door to the office was open and two other people reported hearing Myerow screaming at Friedman. “I heard a scream that I don’t think I’ve ever heard a person scream like that before,” a former Tria office employee says about Myerow’s yelling at Friedman. “I thought someone had gotten hurt. I thought something had fell on Jon.” Myerow then stormed out of his office, letting the door slam behind him. The incident was unsettling enough that co-owner Michael McCaulley told the two office employees who were present that they could go home if they were “scared.” Kristen, a former office staff member, says she chose to stay because she didn’t feel like leaving was really an option.

Friedman ran out of the office in tears and hid in the stairwell of the Medical Arts Building, where she called her partner. He advised her to grab her belongings, say nothing, and leave, which she did. After the outburst, Friedman chose to stay at Tria as a contract employee for five more months because she says she needed the money. (Friedman now works as a wine and beer category manager at Di Bruno Bros., a competitor of Tria’s in the Philly wine scene. Her partner previously worked at Tria but was “dismissed,” according to an email Myerow sent to co-owner Dave Kwass in 2015 that was reviewed by Eater. Myerow did not respond to Eater’s requests to provide further documentation of his alleged firing.)

In an email sent to the office staff present that day, Myerow wrote, “I apologize for losing my temper and screaming at Sande today. It’s not acceptable. As some of you know, I’ve been working on this for years, but every now and then, it’s one step back to the old days.”

In a statement to Eater, Myerow said that he had raised his voice or lost his temper “maybe six times” in 18 years. Regarding whether he recalls an incident where he slammed his hand on a desk in June 2016, Myerow wrote in an email, “There have been a few occasions when I slammed my hand on my desk. Do I specifically remember an instance that I did it in 2016? No.”

Several sources said that Myerow’s alleged behavior seemed like an obvious call for clear, institutional intervention, claiming that Myerow’s outbursts were so frequent that managerial and office staff began to see them as a normal part of working at the restaurant.

Some restaurants might defer to specialized HR companies that work on short- or long-term contracts to mediate conflicts. But for most of Tria’s existence, escalating an HR concern meant involving Philadelphia lawyer Dave Kwass, Myerow’s college friend, who is also a co-owner and investor at Tria.

“It was that kind of atmosphere, knowing that he was doing inappropriate things, but we never had any place to say anything about it,” Morgan*, a former bar manager, says. “We just had to sort of accept it as normal.”

“They supposedly did have a chain of how you were supposed to go about airing grievances,” Morgan says about Tria’s human resources policies. Workers with concerns about another coworker were instructed in the handbook to first “confront” the person (emphasis Tria’s), then raise problems with a general manager, McCaulley, Myerow, and finally, Kwass.

“We’re not going to go to Kwass about things,” Morgan says. “That’s Jon’s best friend and lawyer buddy ... There was no way for them to be accountable.” The expectation that managers would escalate instances of harassment to Myerow and McCaulley also placed senior-level staff in a bind, especially managers like Rayne Betts.

On October 4, 2018, three days after this original confrontation with Betts that resulted in her being locked in the bathroom, McCaulley sent an email to Betts and the general manager saying that he had met with Kwass and decided that Myerow would be “removed from operations at Tria Cafe.” This decision came with a caveat: Myerow “might need to still be involved helping with the new Chef at Taproom,” McCaulley said, with the long-term goal of further reducing Myerow’s role at Tria. If “Jon comes into Tria, he comes in like Kwass as a civilian,” McCaulley wrote. “If there are issues, he tells me just like Kwass does.”

That same day, Myerow sent an email to Tria management. “I have gone past my ‘sell by’ date to be in the day-to-day operations of restaurants,” he wrote. “Acting on that truth benefits all of us.” There was no mention of the events that had precipitated that change. Myerow concluded the email: “I’m looking forward to an amazing 2019!”

Shortly after the announcement of Myerow’s more limited role, though, he began to show up at Tria again, despite the fact that several employees say they had told McCaulley or Kwass that they felt unsafe around him. “There was plenty [of] communication about him potentially [coming] back into the restaurants and it was that communication that forced me to resign,” Betts says, which she ultimately did in June 2019.

After Betts’s departure, Cat Brew, a bartender and server who worked at the cafes from 2015 to 2019, made it her mission to keep Myerow out of the two wine bars and hold McCaulley to his word. One morning in the fall of 2019, Brew says she walked into the Rittenhouse location of Tria, saw Myerow standing in the middle of the dining room, and immediately walked out. After co-owner McCaulley put in his notice (he now also works at Di Bruno Bros.), Brew met with Tria’s general manager and lawyer and Tria co-owner Dave Kwass to discuss her discomfort with Myerow’s presence in the restaurants.

“There were personal challenges that showed up professionally in the business and I did my best to help mitigate or manage them,” McCaulley says. “And what I did kind of leaving Tria is just saying, like, ‘Hey, I need to take personal responsibility myself. What could I have done to make the culture better at Tria?’”

At the meeting, Brew told Kwass everything that had happened, but she says Kwass told her that Myerow would be back and running the restaurants again. “After I told him all the reasons why I refuse to work with Jon Myerow, [Kwass] goes, ‘Well I need somebody to run my restaurants,’” Brew recalls. Brew put in her two weeks’ notice soon afterward. (In an interview, Kwass said he both didn’t remember what was discussed at the meeting and that “it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about.”)

During the pandemic, Myerow continued to speak to the press as founder and owner of Tria, advocating for better working conditions for restaurant employees. Meanwhile, numerous restaurants across the country experienced their own reckonings after vocal employees took to social media to voice concerns about discrepancies between their employers’ public support of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements and their behind-the-scenes treatment of workers. These industry-wide calls for better conditions brought workers’ rights to the forefront of industry conversations, with a growing number of businesses offering fair pay, paid leave, health benefits, and more formal HR policies for sexual harassment and abuse cases.

In May 2021, the restaurant reckoning came to Tria’s doorstep when Friedman posted on Instagram about how she felt Myerow had treated her. Other accounts of Myerow’s alleged behavior in the workplace began to trickle out from former employees, too.

Dave Kwass says that Friedman’s Instagram post led to changes at Tria, though he later doubled back to say that “chronologically” the changes to Tria’s workplace principles were “conjoined,” but were not directly caused by the social media response. “Last year, after Sande’s Instagram post, we sort of huddled and thought about what we were going to do — and not all of that is stuff that’s been publicly disclosed or [that we] can or would talk about,” Kwass says. “Jon’s personal involvement in the cafes has been less than 5 percent of his time and not during business hours. His contact that he has with store managers is Zoom, telephone, text, as opposed to in person.”

Kwass says that, although he didn’t particularly remember Myerow returning to the restaurants, “in the immediate aftermath of Michael leaving, I’m sure that there were more things that Jon had to do in the cafes. I don’t remember that in particular but it wouldn’t surprise me. There are things to be done, somebody’s gotta do them,” he says.

The 2022 Tria handbook outlines a clearer approach to reporting “unlawful harassment.” First, employees must report the incident to the restaurant’s general manager: “If neither person is available, or if the employee feels it would be unproductive to inform these persons, the employee should immediately contact the Director of the Tria Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Psychological Safety Committee.” “We added — significantly — the DEIP committee. And, frankly, a lot of that was the result of the Black Lives Matter situation,” Myerow says. “It was a seismic moment in our restaurants. Everybody was feeling it.”

Myerow says that after working 70-hour weeks during COVID, he now works from home, going into the restaurant six hours a week. “I’m trying to transition out of the business really,” he says. Though, he added, “I mean, at a certain point, we’re going to expand and grow Tria. There’s no need for me to discuss my personal goals with you but — I apologize — that’s kind of where we are.”

Christina S. Zhu is a Berlin-based illustrator from Germany who is particularly fond of translating complex topics into responsible visual art. She loves comics and dumplings.
Fact checked by Hanna Merzbach

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