FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Owners of Two EE’s winery, Eric and Emily Harris, feel like they’re in The Upside Down. It doesn’t seem like real life. A review on Facebook, that’s been shared more than 5,000 times, blasts the winery for turning away a group from a long-term care facility Monday because they arrived in a bus.
The winery has a policy to not allow big tour bus groups without a prior event reservation. Eric Harris, owner of the winery, explained to WANE that the policy was incorrectly applied to the group from the Blair Ridge Health Campus in Peru, Indiana.
“A mistake was made, however a lot of people are misunderstanding the mistake as something that it’s not,” Eric said. “We have a new staff member who applied that to a bus that came in today and that’s not in the spirit of the policy’s intent and it left a guest feeling like there was discrimination and a review was left and it went viral.”
In the public Facebook review, Emily Babbs says she’s the activity director and made a reservation for eight people ahead of time. But because they arrived in a bus, they were turned away.
“I explained to the manager that they were only in a “bus” because we had a lady in a wheelchair that we had no other way to transport,” Babbs’ post on Facebook said. “I’ve never encountered such poor customer service, and I’ve never felt like my residents have ever been more disrespected and discriminated against than I have today.”
Eric and Emily were not at the winery when the incident happened and were beside themselves to learn of the post and the hundreds of comments accusing the winery of being discriminatory.
“Just the idea that we would support a policy that would discriminate against a disability – the winery was conjured up in the basement with Emily’s dad and he’s in a wheelchair. It’s just tough. It feels like everyone’s coming at you from every direction,” Eric said.
Emily was emotional explaining how her dad became paralyzed from the neck down eight months ago from COVID-induced transverse myelitis.
“When it comes to disability, it hits home. We only want to treat people with disabilities with the best experiences. I think of my dad and I only want to do what’s best for him and to hear that that’s the perception we’d give to any customer breaks my heart,” Emily said. “My main focus has been giving him the best quality of life, so to think about not being able to give a good experience to someone, it breaks my heart. I feel like we’re in The Upside Down because that’s all I’ve been doing for the last 8 months for my dad.”
While they understand why Babbs was so upset, they said it’s a horrible misunderstanding that they want to make right.
“It would be nice to really treat them and do something super special. We’d love to be able to treat them,” Eric said. “We hope in the future we have the opportunity to have a discussion with [Babbs] and apologize in person.”
Eric added that they’ve messaged Babbs on Facebook. As of their interview with WANE 15 Monday night, Babbs had not replied to Eric and Emily. But, she had updated her Facebook post to indicate she got their message.
“They have reached out privately, which I appreciate, but I have nothing else to say. My narrative is out there and now the ball is in their court on how they choose to rectify the situation,” Babbs’ updated post read.
Eric said the bus policy will also be revamped and clarified to prevent any future misunderstandings.
“We think that policy needs overhauled and have better training for the staff. We’ll post an update and make sure everyone knows the changes made to avoid negative experiences in the future,” Eric said. “We’re a small facility and historically when large bus groups and bus tours come, those people will have different expectation for us and will come in and crowd the space. We need event reservations for large groups so we can staff it appropriately. When we have a large group unexpected it’s unmanageable and we want to respect the other people who made reservations. This weekend we turned away five buses that didn’t make a reservation.”
The group from the long-term care facility did make a reservation for a table of 8. Part of the policy revamp will be clarifying the two kinds of reservations.
“We have a private event reservation [for large groups] or what’s similar to a reservation you’d make at a restaurant,” he said. “We’re a unique business and a unique venue and we’re not operating in an industry that has a whole lot of precedence. A lot of what we’d have to come up with is out of thin air to try to adapt as a winery in the Midwest as opposed to a more established industry like on the West Coast. There’s a lot of things we’ve had to try, fail and redo and this is one of them,” Eric said.
WANE 15 messaged Babbs and was contacted by another employee on the bus. We asked for an interview and Babbs didn’t respond. The other employee said she wanted to hear the winery’s apology before doing an interview. WANE 15 also requested an interview through Blair Ridge’s facebook page and was told to call the facility. No one answered when we called and the facility’s mailbox was full.
Two EE’s Winery will mark its tenth anniversary in May.
Below is Babbs’ entire Facebook review:
Edit: I did not expect this post to receive the attention it has. My goal was to share my experience, get the attention of upper management/the owners by leaving my review, and get the manager involved at least educated. Two-EE’s can handle this however they see fit, again my only goal was to share the experience on behalf of my residents. They have reached out privately, which I appreciate, but I have nothing else to say. My narrative is out there and now the ball is in their court on how they choose to rectify the situation. My views are my own, and everyone else can make their own opinions based on their experiences.
TWO-EE’s Winery I’m so disappointed. I’m an activity director at a long term care facility, and I had residents that wanted to go to your winery. I made the reservation for 8, and we had 6 people total, including staff members, make the hour long drive to Huntington today, only to be met at the door and not allowed inside because they were in a “bus.” I explained to the manager that they were only in a “bus” because we had a lady in a wheelchair that we had no other way to transport. They still refused my residents because they have a “no bus tours/large group” policy. I did not have a large group and we did not want a tour… I made a reservation for a table for 8, and my 6 people were refused service. I asked what she considered a bus and she said she didn’t know. I asked to hear the policy and she said she didn’t know. She said they had “bad experiences in the past with buses” and I asked to hear those, and she didn’t know. I asked if all 6 people had shown up in separate cars or a 15 passenger van (which seats more than our bus) would it have mattered, and she said no because I had a reservation. Simply because they were in our wheelchair accessible vehicle they weren’t allowed to enter. My driver even offered to drop them off and leave, and they still refused my residents. I’ve never encountered such poor customer service, and I’ve never felt like my residents have ever been more disrespected and discriminated against than I have today. I made sure I had a reservation, and that the building was handicap accessible. We did not have a large group or want a tour. My residents just wanted to buy some wine, maybe some food, and either way were prepared to spend money at your facility. In all my years working in activities and participating in outings, I’ve never had such a negative experience. Shame on you, TWO-EE’s Winery.Emily Babbs’ Facebook review