It's a stormy August day. That's an unusual sentence to write at this time of year. Tropical storm Hilary is bringing abnormally strong winds and rain at a time when it's typically 100 degrees and scorching hot. I feel another storm has been gathering force since before I started posting this blog. I feel it is gathering momentum whenever another person calls or writes to share their story. Even though I took a few months off between posts, the calls, emails, texts, and meetings didn't stop. Most say something similar, "I can't believe they continue to hurt people daily. And no one is doing anything about it."
But that's not true. There are many things I can't write about. All I can say is justice is coming. And while it might take longer than most would like, it is coming and will be multi-faceted.
This post asks questions that many of you have requested. In the last month, I've interviewed/spoken with over a dozen former employees, former patrons, and former volunteers at Ewings. I haven't sought them out; they've contacted me. Wanting to be anonymous yet on the record. They have a story as well. This post won't be long but will be hard to read. It includes racism, a topic I haven't wanted to address because I don't want to get it wrong. But it's now been confirmed by so many, including myself. And it's ongoing, not isolated. So let's dive in. Don't hold your breath.
How did Ewings acquire close to $400,000 in PPP loans during COVID when it was shut down?
First, let me answer the question in the first two sentences. Ewings acquired close to 400K in PPP loans by telling the government they had 39 employees for eight weeks. They drew PPP funds two times; both times, the restaurant was shut down, and employees had been laid off or asked to work for free. So the real question is, what did they use the money for? That's the same question multiple former Ewings employees and the IRS are asking now. Here's a little infographic I put together with a timeline of events. It helps to visualize it.
Now that you've taken a few minutes to digest the information presented above, let's dive into those details. How can you only operate a food truck on Saturday afternoon and claim to employ 27 people? That's a lot of people to cram in a truck! Fast forward to PPP draw number two. When you're completely shut down for over four months, how can you claim 39 employees? You not only didn't lose employees during Covid, you hired 12 more? Interesting. It's also interesting how the employees I have spoken with were not given PPP funds but instead were asked to work for free or told they would be hired back after the Covid shutdown. And, it's not like it takes a long time to receive funding from the SBA (Small Business Administration); typically, funding arrives within a week. So where did all that money go? I think the vehicle procurement timing is also interesting. Mercedes Sprinter Vans are not cheap. Neither are Land Rovers or custom Jeep Wranglers. But hey, maybe that was from church income? A church that was also shut down during Covid. PPP Funding was secured through Desert Valleys Credit Union in Ridgecrest. I wonder if they have questions as well? I believe they do. But that story will have to wait...For now, it's still a mystery. A second mystery is how all the cars have Idaho license plates. According to California law, if you operate your business in California, own your primary residence in California, and live in that residence for the majority of the year, you have to register your vehicles in the state where the vehicles travel the majority of the time. Unless, of course, one feels they're above the law. This might be true for the license plate and PPP spending mysteries.
Why have so many employees left Ewings on bad terms?
First, I fully understand the vast difference between a disgruntled ex-employee and an ex-employee who has been mistreated and abused. I've heard plenty of stories from both types; I know the distinction. That's not what I'm talking about here. Why even ask this question? Why not leave it alone? What is the point? The point is that abusive behavior didn't end at the church. It followed the abusers. And I believe it will continue to follow them until they acknowledge their wrongdoings, repent, and seek professional help. Until then, it must be brought into the light and not hidden in darkness. Everything written below has been told to me by ex-employees, current employees, and church members who volunteered their time at Ewings for the mission...
Serving top-quality food and drinks at a restaurant with the best views in town and iconic history to go with it...isn't enough. There must be a mission/vision attached to the restaurant. It must serve a greater purpose. But when the restaurant's motto, "Born to Fly," is attached to a logo that very closely resembles the Nazi eagle, something is very wrong. Many employees noticed and addressed it, yet Neal and Amie could never be wrong. So the logo remained...as did the racism.
If this was isolated, one could assume ignorance from the owners. But we can't forget two things. Multiple employees pointed out the similarities. One might say, "It's only an eagle". Tell that to Eastside Elementary School, who was also criticized for their close resemblance...they made a change. Not Ewings.
The Prestons did nothing to change it. Then, a year after this logo, another logo was printed on the back of T-Shirts given to children at a high school basketball game to bully a child. The Black Lives Matter fist, only this time it was hijacked, promoting white privilege, after the Preston's daughter was not allowed to continue playing basketball because she drank alcohol at a party. A fact that was proven, despite Neal lying on a video claiming her innocence.
If this were the extent of the racism, it would be wrong, even repulsive, but nothing compared to what was said and done on the restaurant and church property.
The year was 2015.
It was summer, and Neal preached a message I can never forget. At the time, I played it off as ignorance on his part. Now I see it as full-blown racism. Amid a story about basketball, Neal shared that his nickname in college was "Ni***r Neal." Or, as he pronounced it, N I **A - N E A L. He shared this publicly from the platform at Wofford Heights Foursquare Church with pride while smiling. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I confronted him afterward; he said it was no big deal. It was a huge deal. Several people never came back to church again after that day. I don't blame them. He didn't mention it again. Until...he owned Ewings and had people of color on staff. Several of them quit because he would go to the kitchen staff and tell them he could be called N----a Neal. Also, when the kitchen staff, and dishwashers, asked how they could be promoted to servers, Neal's kids would "joke" that they needed their "white privilege cards" first. They even went so far as to make cards that said "white privilege" and showed the people of color these cards while laughing. If that weren't enough, they would write the N-word through the dust on their cars in the parking lot while they washed dishes. It's sickening. And it's been confirmed by multiple ex-employees. This happened more than once. But once was more than enough.
Add this to the fact that newly hired servers had to pass a "25-question biblical survey" to be employed or the fact that employees had to contribute 10% of their earnings to the church...an auto deduction from their paycheck. You've got yourself a full-blown cult in action. So to fully answer the question, "Why bring Ewings into this blog?" The answer is simple. Neal and Amie will use any means they have to promote and advance their cult behavior that also enables and advances racism.
Why do Pastors promote drinking so much?
Holy Water is sacred in the Catholic church. It represents blessed water used to purify. Jesus Juice is the term for Jesus' first miracle, turning water into wine. In modern times it also refers to Michael Jackson giving alcohol to minors at Neverland. Both references are alcoholic drinks available on the menu at Ewings Restaurant. See the picture below...
Let me clarify this; I have no issue with alcohol. I have no problem with people drinking. However, I do think that when someone claims to be a pastor, claims to have run the most successful recovery ministry, and yet simultaneously promotes their bar, club nights, and drinking beyond excess, while serving minors (after hours) and asking recovering addicts to be bartenders in order to "get over their past"...something is desperately wrong. It's no secret that Neal and Amie drink a lot. It's no secret that they enable those around them to partake with them, regardless of their age. The issue I have is simple. And it's my opinion. Choose. Either be a bar owner or a pastor. You can't be both when you serve minors (after hours) and recovering alcoholics on purpose while naming custom cocktails after sacred things. That's called sacrilegious, against the law, and morally wrong, which is totally fine for a rebellious bar owner. But not for a bar owner who also claims to love Jesus and serve as a Pastor, but apparently, it is ok for someone who believes they are above the law, even God's law....
Tomorrow will be interesting...
This is always the thought I have after writing one of these blog posts. Especially this one. Knowing I'll pass by current cult followers working in the community, walking around Kernville, and cruising around the valley. Knowing they have been fed the anti-Jon propaganda that so many others have apologized for believing in. So this last section addresses you directly. I want to say I don't blame you. I don't dislike you. I don't think anything negative about you. I am rooting for you. And I am here for you. The minute you realize what you're in and choose to leave, you have a lot of people here for you who understand. And even if you never leave, I still understand and don't blame you for it. We can still be friends. I'll never ask you to choose sides. It might be mind-blowing, but it's also how most people think and believe. And it's genuine. Till next time...