Members of the book group, sporting matching gray T-shirts and broad grins, boarded the Napa Valley Wine Train in high spirits Saturday.
“The train is leaving the station! Choo choo!” member Lisa Johnson posted on her Facebook page, captioning a picture of five glasses of burgundy liquid clinking together.
But not long into the trip train staff began asking them to quiet down. Before the journey was half over, they were escorted off the train, where police officers were waiting for them, according to the Associated Press.
“We didn’t do anything wrong and we still feel this is about race. We were singled out,” Johnson told local TV station KTVU.
Wine train spokesman Sam Singer told the AP that staff had asked the book club members to either be quieter or get off the train. He said that people are asked to get off the train, which serves appetizers and drinks to passengers as they chug through California wine country, roughly once a month.
“The book club clearly was fun-loving, boisterous and loud enough that it affected the experience of some of the passengers who were in the same car, who complained to staff,” he said.
But on Tuesday, the Napa Valley Wine Train’s chief executive officer issued a full-throated apology for the company’s treatment of the members of Johnson’s Sistahs on the Reading Edge book club, saying the 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,” Anthony “Tony” Giaccio said in a statement, which was sent to The Post.
Giaccio said in his statement that he has spoken with Johnson and apologized for her group’s experience on the train. He also wrote a letter to the club, apologizing for the company’s “many mistakes and failures.”
“We pride ourselves our hospitality and our desire to please our guests on the Napa Valley Wine Train,” the letter stated. “In this instance, we failed in every measure of the meaning of good service, respect and hospitality.”
In the letter, Giaccio promised to make sure employees received more diversity and sensitivity training, and invited the club back on the train as his personal guests. The chief executive also noted that train employees were “insensitive when we asked you to depart our train by marching you down the aisle past all the other passengers” and said the company “erred by placing an inaccurate post on our Facebook site that was not reflective of what actually occurred.”
“Please accept my apologies for our many mistakes and failures,” he wrote.
Source: The Washington Post | Sarah Kaplan and Sarah Larimer