the drake hotel

Former employees accuse The Drake Hotel of racist and discriminatory practices

Businesses all over the city participated in Blackout Tuesday earlier this week by posting images of black squares on their Instagram pages, and The Drake Hotel was no exception.

But response to The Drake's social media post was different from the rest, as a handful of former employees quickly began filling the comments section with accusations of racist and discriminatory practices they say they experienced while working there. 

"The amount of times I was met with challenges on black focused programming during my years working for the Drake as Music Programmer can't even be put in to words," wrote former programmer Iain MacNeil. 

"What a joke. You refused to pay the Black creatives I brought in only to have your employees—my colleagues—actually mock how little I made while my back was turned. Countless Black people have dined and worked with you only to come out despising everything you stand for. Can't wait for this hotbed of culture to burn down," said another.

"I also worked at The Drake as a music programmer and corroborate the racism that permeated the building during my time there. Like Iain said; thinly veiled racist comments and talk of wanting to avoid 'urban' crowds," added another former employee. 

One former DJ, who has chosen to remain anonymous, told me about similar experiences he had while working at The Drake as a resident DJ for more than three years. 

He said he was in a constant battle with security and upper management because they often deemed the music he wanted to play "too ethnic" and "too urban."

"I was told that they didn't want to attract 'a certain crowd,'" he said. "I wanted to host a party over Caribana weekend and the programmer (Iain MacNeil at the time) was very enthusiastic about it but then came back to me and said that Jeff (the owner) didn't want any Caribana-related programming out of fear of the people it would attract."

He said he's also had friends, who were POC, have to wait in line longer despite being on the guest list while white women were allowed to enter freely.

"I know they've done a better job over the last year of opening up their programming to allow for more black focused events but I continue to hear stories... about prejudice and discrimination from fellow peers and friends," he added.

In response to the criticism, Drake Hotel Properties issued a statement pledging to do better. 

"What has become clear to us in the last 24 hours is that there are deeply rooted feelings about our company's performance as an employer. We are listening, learning, and are determined to grow," the statement reads.

 "We have not and will never be an organization that encourages or allows for discrimination in any form. This is a painful moment of self reflection, but we are determined to do the right thing, learn form this experience, and change."

In the statement, the brand said it would be doubling down on efforts to support diversity, conducting a full internal audit of the organization and executing diversity training for all staff at all levels.

They also say they plan to create a "robust internal diversity committee."

"Once the hospitality industry is allowed to re-open and commence its recovery, we will ensure Black people and all minority groups are even better represented in new hires to the company at all levels," the company wrote. 

"We will assure that our cultural programming continues to support and provide a platform for Black and diverse artists. We will use our robust platforms to advocate for positive change and spearhead fundraising efforts in support of Black advocacy groups."

But beyond these promises, many have also questioned why The Drake Hotel's only contribution to Blackout Tuesday was a black square on Instagram. 

Several former customers and employees subsequently commented on the post urging them to donate to any of the causes currently fighting anti-Black racism here and abroad, something they've yet to commit to doing.

"@thedrake If you hear one thing from these comments, it's to put your money where your mouth is. Listen to the people who are taking the time to educate you on how to fix your issues," one Instagram user wrote. 

"They didn't have to spend all that time outlining it for you. They did it anyway. Donate to BLM organizations and post receipts."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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