Capitol Hill sandwich spot HoneyHole embroiled in controversy

May 31, 2023, 4:18 PM


HoneyHole's sign and logo outside its currently-shuttered E. Jefferson Street location (MyNorthwest file photo)

(MyNorthwest file photo)

HoneyHole, a staple in Capitol Hill’s restaurant scene, has become the subject of several controversies among employees who have been distraught and unhappy with the sandwich eatery’s newest leadership.

“For the last two years under new ownership, hundreds of employees have been retaliated against, harassed, discriminated against, demeaned, degraded, and treated like a subhuman species,” a marketing email from HoneyHole obtained by Capitol Hill Seattle Blog read. “She has made racist comments, taken people off of schedules with no regard for their safety or well-being, and retaliated against employees for calling out one time.”

Kristin and Patrick Rye bought HoneyHole in 2021 after founding brothers Sean and Devon London, alongside co-owner Hannah Roberts, sold the establishment after running it for the previous 22 years. Among the purchase came news of an immediate expansion. With two locations in Capitol Hill — on Pike and Jefferson Street — the Ryes looked at neighborhoods all over Seattle including Burien and Ballard to stretch the sandwich stop’s reach throughout the city.

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But now internal issues within the restaurant are surfacing after a significant increase in employee turnover since the Ryes took over.

“[Kristen] has fired employee after employee, manager after manager, and pushes people beyond their limit to the point where they cry,” the email continued. “She has mold in her ice machine and her beer lines, served moldy bread to guests for an entire day, and tried to salvage food which was not stored at temperature in a broken refrigerator. She has also put employees’ lives at risk by not putting in A/C during the summer nor adequate heating in the winter. Don’t support the HoneyHole, take a stand for workers and minorities. Stay tuned for the biggest lawsuit ever.”

According to Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, a second email followed the initial one just a few hours later with a subject line reading “We Were Hacked.”

“We have a manager who is no longer with us who felt that it was ok to hack into our marketing system and make some very personal and hurtful accusations,” the follow-up email, from Kristen and Patrick, read.

In an ensuing conversation with Seattle Eater, Kristen stated the first email could even be libel against her, Patrick, and the company. Kristen also admitted employee turnover is high, but claimed it’s due to individual employee circumstances.

“I’ve worked for or with more than two dozen companies in the last 10 years in 30 states and three countries,” Cameron DeWitt Ruiz, who worked at HoneyHole for nine months in 2021-22, told Seattle Eater. “That was by far one of the most negative experiences I’ve had from management ever.”

Multiple employees came forward to Seattle Eater after the email was released to complain about Kristin’s management, an atmosphere of transphobia at the restaurant, and paycheck irregularities that led staff to check their respective pay stubs to make sure they weren’t being shorted.

Payment issues were the most consistent complaint amongst the current and former employees, as they claimed tips weren’t properly distributed while payment for hours logged would come in late or incomplete, never fixed until the employee approached ownership about the issue. And, according to Seattle Eater, they were met with the same response: “Well, everyone’s replaceable.”

Kristen has been open about being new to the restaurant industry, as both they and Patrick came from San Diego and moved to Seattle in 2021. Kristin previously owned a heritage chicken farm before moving into the sandwich business.

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“My background is in finance and watching the bottom line,” Kristen said in an interview with the Puget Sound Business Journal in 2021. “In that way, I feel very well equipped to run the business end of the restaurant.”

The expansion project for HoneyHole has faltered momentarily as well, as the second location on Jefferson Street had to be shuttered for weeks, according to The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. Ownership reiterated their focus is on the business at the original Pike location, with hopes that a reopening could occur by mid-June.

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Capitol Hill sandwich spot HoneyHole embroiled in controversy