Chandler bartender's abrupt firing creates social-media storm: 'I feel so disrespected,' Brandon Casey says

Tuesday, 14 November 2017, 12:54:37 PM. Bartender Brandon Casey helped open The Ostrich in Chandler, developed the bar program, hired the staff and did the design for the underground space.

Beverage director Brandon Casey was abruptly let go this weekend from The Ostrich cocktail bar in Chandler.

But what should have been an often-ordinary move in the restaurant industry became a public-relations nightmare for a restaurant group facing customers' ire all over social media.  

That's because Crust, which owns the underground bar at the San Marcos Resort, announced it had "to part ways" with Casey in a Facebook post moments after doing so Saturday night.

The now-deleted Facebook post that made Brandon Casey's

The now-deleted Facebook post that made Brandon Casey's firing public. (Photo: Kellie Hwang)

"The management team at The Ostrich" shared the news in a now-deleted Facebook post:

“We are saddened that we find it necessary to part ways with the mega talented Brandon. The needs of the business must come first. We will miss his extraordinary knowledge of liquor, it’s (sic) chemistry and its history. We wish Brandon well, with much luck and success in his future endeavors.

The post drew a flurry of comments, many defending Casey and questioning why the termination was posted publicly. 

One person wrote: “Wonder if you realize that Brandon and his talent (and talent at drawing like talent) is what made the Ostrich. Really unprofessional move in a community that is smaller and more loyal that you clearly realize.”

“There goes my motivation to visit The Ostrich,” another person wrote.

There were some negative comments toward Casey, too. One person said: “Good riddance. We heard so many good things about him but last time we were there he was the reason we walked out. We will be back now.”

Brandon Casey presented a cocktail seminar at the 2015 azcentral.com Food & Wine Experience in Scottsdale.

Brandon Casey presented a cocktail seminar at the 2015 azcentral.com Food & Wine Experience in Scottsdale. (Photo: David Kadlubowski/The Republic)

'What not to do on social media'

Crust is a Scottsdale-based Italian restaurant group with three Valley locations. It hired Casey in summer 2015 to serve as beverage director for Crust and to open The Ostrich that fall.

Casey said he went into work as usual on Saturday at 5 p.m. Someone he described as the new operations manager pulled him aside and told him he was let go.

“I wasn’t given an explanation,” Casey said. “I was more surprised than anything. I thought we were getting along just fine.”

He left the bar and called his wife, and then started receiving text messages from his parents, who told him there was a post about the termination on Facebook.

“It’s definitely a case of what not to do on social media,” Casey said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. I feel so disrespected… It’s the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever seen.”

Reached for comment, Crust owner Michael Merendino emailed this statement: 

"Brandon is certainly one of the most intelligent, knowledgeable and skilled bartenders in the Valley. Over time, our respective visions for guest service, innovation and efficient operations progressed down separate paths. We sincerely wish Brandon great success in all of his future endeavors."

Asked why Casey's termination was made public on the Ostrich's Facebook page, Merendino replied, "Our statement is the only comment we have at this time."

Since the Facebook post was deleted, users have started commenting on older Ostrich posts, some leaving screenshots of the firing. Many also have left one-star reviews on the Facebook page, with some bar supporters leaving five-star reviews. 

Casey said the owners of Crust hired him to “build a cocktail concept,” and he was responsible for designing the space, at 10 N. San Marcos Place., hiring the staff and crafting the menu. He said he was promised equity, but did not receive it. He did not sign any contracts, calling it “a beginner’s mistake in that arena.” 

Previously, Casey was beverage director at The Gladly and Citizen Public House. He currently owns The Woodshed in Tempe and plans to focus his time there for now. 

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