Dandelion Cafe closes for good

Dandelion Cafe closes for good – Orlando Sentinel 8_24_2020

Orlando’s Dandelion Community Cafe has permanently closed amid the coronavirus pandemic and after employees there said they were organizing to address issues with the restaurant.

The vegetarian cafe at 618 N.Thornton Ave. posted on its website that it had closed because of a “variety of factors outside of our control” including the impact of coronavirus.

Opened in 2006,the eatery had hosted art shows and live music and offered a menu of organic options. It was named the best vegetarian restaurantin Florida by Mental Floss in 2017.

“It is with a heavy heart, but clear mind,that I make the decision to per manently close our special place,” a post signed by founder Chris Blanc on the website said. “It has proven extremely difficult to operate a business in this current environment.The last few months have required an almost complete change to our
business in the way we serve our community, at great financial cost.”

The cafe’s voicemail, which was unable to accept messages Tuesday morning, said
it was closed until further notice. Most ofthe cafe’s staff had recently
signed a letter presented to management announcing they were forming a union,
according to Kyle Kern, secretary-treasurer of the Central Florida Industrial Workers
of the World labor union. The group, dubbed “The Seeds,” did not intend to move toward contract negotiations or a National Labor Relations Board election, but wanted to address grievances with the cafe directly as a group, citing issues such as low pay compared with rising rent costs, Kern said.

In an Aug. 11 Facebook post,the group said the cafe had “locked out” its staff for
organizing. Pickets were held outside the restaurant. “The owners of Dandelion have decided they will destroy their entire business to avoid sitting down with their employees to discuss serious problems with their workplace,” Kern said in an emailed statement Monday night. “This is the lowest of the low.”

Kern said about 15 hourly employees would be losing their jobs because of the
move.


Dandelion Community Cafe closes doors permanently after worker lock-out
Posted By Orlando Weekly on Tue, Aug 18, 2020 at 7:02 pm

After 14 years in business, popular vegetarian restaurant and Mills 50 gathering place Dandelion Community Cafe has closed its doors permanently.

The official word from restaurant owner Chris Blanc is that the closing is down to “a variety of factors outside of our control, including the heavy impact of COVID-19.”

Now make no mistake about it, it’s always a sad occasion when a beloved small business goes under, and no doubt the coronavirus pandemic is exacting a huge economic toll on local restaurants.

But it certainly appears as though one of those “variety of factors” in Dandelion’s closing is that restaurant management didn’t want to engage in a dialogue with newly unionized workers, the Seeds.

Dandelion’s employees first found themselves locked out of their place of employment last Tuesday, soon after presenting Dandelion’s management with a letter stating their intent to unionize and requesting a meeting on a variety of issues including compensation, safety and management policy.

The restaurant remained closed the rest of the week and through the weekend, with workers staging demonstrations in front of Dandelion daily, taking their case directly to the public.

Though customers and employees of the restaurant hoped an accord could be reached, Dandelion owners have made the decision to shut down their business for good.

A statement posted by Blanc to the Dandelion website on Monday reads in part:

Due to a variety of factors outside of our control, including the heavy impact It is with a heavy heart, but clear mind, that I make the decision to permanently close our special place. It has proven extremely difficult to operate a business in this current environment. The last few months have required an almost complete change to our business in the way we serve our community, at great financial cost. Unfortunately, it is no longer sustainable for Dandelion Community Cafe to continue to operate, and I have made the difficult decision to permanently close our family business. Please respect my decision. I ask for privacy at this time, and wish you all well.
Dandelion’s employees were informed of the restaurant’s closing via an email from Blanc on Monday evening.

Kyle Kern, Secretary-Treasurer of Central Florida’s chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World union, blasted the action in a press release also sent out Monday evening: “The owners of Dandelion have decided they will destroy their entire business to avoid sitting down with their employees to discuss serious problems with their workplace. This is the lowest of the low.”

For their part, the Seeds responded collectively on their Facebook page: “We are shocked and saddened at this decision. Though management claims they closed for reasons outside of their control, they always had the option of working with us. We will always cherish what the Dandelion community has given us.”

A hardship fund has been set up for the suddenly jobless employees. Donate here if you have the means and see fit to do so.


Employees of Orlando’s Dandelion Community Cafe locked out of work after unionizing
Posted By Orlando Weekly on Wed, Aug 12, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Employees of vegetarian restaurant and gathering place Dandelion Community Cafe say they were locked out of work at 4 p.m. Tuesday, after petitioning the owners to form a union.

The Dandelion employee union, dubbed “The Seeds,” made their case through Instagram and Facebook accounts, where they recounted that one of their fellows requested a staff meeting on Aug. 8 and was fired. Following that, employees delivered a letter to Dandelion management on Monday, Aug. 10, explaining their motivations for unionizing and their workplace concerns, and requesting a meeting yet again.

Things went south quickly, and on Tuesday employees found themselves locked out of their place of employment, with a text by Dandelion owner Chris Blanc explaining that he was closing the restaurant until the end of the week and locking out employees.

The statement posted to the Seeds’ Instagram on Monday night read in part:

DANDELION COMMUNITY CAFE JUST LOCKED OUT THEIR STAFF IN RETALIATION FOR UNION ORGANIZING.

At 4pm the dandelion staff delivered a letter to management announcing our union. We wanted a meeting with management to address our concerns in a collaborative fashion, we also demanded the rehiring of an employee that was unlawfully fired on August 8th. This employee was fired for asking to have a staff meeting. Rather than meeting with us and working with our union to address our concerns, the owner, Chris Blanc, sent a group message stating they were closing the cafe until the end of the week and that all employees are locked out until further notice. This is a clear retaliation and violation of our right to unionize and participate in concerted activity. THIS LOCK OUT IS AN UNLAWFUL. We are publicly calling on Dandelion to immediately end the lockout and allow us back to work.

We are asking the central Florida community, especially our customers, to support us and stand in solidarity with us to sign our public letter of support.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Dandelion employees staged impromptu demonstrations in front of the locked restaurant to take their case directly to the public and customers.

Additionally, there is a community letter of support and solidarity with Dandelion workers that can be viewed or signed here. The Seeds are unionizing over concerns about workplace safety and compensation, and for food industry workers during a pandemic, these aren’t outrageous things to ask.

As of the time of writing, Dandelion Community Cafe has not responded to the workers, but the temporary closure seems to have been expanded from the “end of the week” to “indefinite,” as evidenced by a notice on their website on Wednesday.

Dandelion Community Cafe has not responded to a request for comment from Orlando Weekly.


Bungalower.com May 14, 2015

Julie Norris, long seen as the figurehead of the local vegan, hippie culture in Orlando, is no longer affiliated with her flagship restaurant Dandelion Cafe in the Mills 50 District.

Norris announced via a blog post last August, that she had entered a legal battle with founding partner, Chris Blanc, who had filed to dissolve the company which turned nine years old last March.

With the buyout concluded, Blanc has taken control of the much-beloved cafe, and is looking at moving forward with a handful of improvements that include new equipment, larger storage facilities and a possible build-out of the kitchen over the coming months.

Down the road, Blanc hopes to build on the success of Dandelion and open a number of like-minded locations across the state, and provide more opportunities for growth for his staff.

Due to a non-compete clause negotiated through the buy-out, Norris will be moving on to greener pastures, in DeLand. Her new business concept is still under wraps.


Orlando Weekly Article – Aug 4, 2014

Tonight, Julie Norris, founder of the beloved Dandelion Communitea Café, posted up a new website called #resolutionnotdissolution. In it, she goes public about a legal dispute she’s been engaged in with Chris Blanc, a co-owner of the cafe who filed to have the company dissolved earlier this year due to what court documents say were management issues.

Norris says on the website that she wants to resolve the situation rather than dissolve the company (which she says could potentially put Dandelion out of business). The two go to mediation to discuss the situation further on Aug. 19, according to the statements on the website, and Norris promises to keep loyal Dandelion fans and friends up to date by posting the legal documents on the site as the case develops.

Here at the Weekly, we’ve heard some of the rumblings about the dispute, but we haven’t heard many details. We do know one thing: It would be a tragedy if yet another Best of Orlando winner went out of business after we honored them. Is there a Best of Orlando curse? Why can’t everyone just get along? Who knows. But we do hope Julie and co. keep serving up that magical chick pea mash that wins our Best Hummus category every year.

UPDATE: Co-owner Chris Blanc responded below in the comments. We’re posting his comment in this blog, as well, so it’s easy to find.

[Public Statement from Chris Blanc]

Dear Community,
This is Chris Blanc, owner and General Manager of Dandelion Communitea Cafe with an important public statement. Dandelion has always been greater than any one person – we are an entire community. We are honored that our beautiful community continues to reward us with the love that is sustaining so well right now. We are also happy to report business is very good and despite any rumors you may have heard to the contrary, we plan on keeping our doors wide open for you all indefinitely.

I feel it is important to shine some light on our situation to dispel unfortunate rumors that may be circulating in regards to the partnership dissolution of Planet Progress, LLC, a legal 50/50 corporate partnership between Julie Norris
and myself, that owns and operates Dandelion Communitea Cafe.

There are two sides to every story, yet, I respectfully and strongly dispute everything Julie Norris has presented in opposition to this partnership dissolution. I am merely seeking a fair end to the legal corporate partnership that exists between myself and Julie Norris, which is not functioning with equal participation or respect. As a result of dissolution, I expect ownership and responsibility of Dandelion will simply transfer to a new ownership entity – preferably myself or Julie Norris, or possibly a third-party.

Dandelion continues to operate sustainably under my full-time management. The cafe’s operational and financial strength is bolstered by the court-appointed custodianship and protection of Stephenson & Moore, Inc. – a well-reputed firm with over 25 years experience in these matters. Our doors are open for business and will remain so. We are happy and honored to continue
providing great food, place and atmosphere to our community.

In regards to what Julie Norris has publicized about this case, I strongly deny all allegations of any wrongdoing or misconduct of any sort on my part. I respectfully request the community to not take sides based upon public posts of only one party. Over the years, I have made several attempts to privately mediate a settlement, and now I believe the legal system is the appropriate place for the adjudication of this partnership dissolution.

While we appreciate your continued patronage of Dandelion Cafe, it is important to understand that the company is not accepting or in need of any financing related to our legal costs. There is no company-official or company-sanctioned fund to save Dandelion Communitea Cafe. I implore you not to donate money to any cause without knowing all the facts. The factual allegations of all parties in this dispute are a matter of public record. [Case# 2014-CA-000113-O, Orange County, FL]

Thank you for your love, support and continued patronage of Dandelion.

See you around the community,

Chris Blanc

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