"It's stupid to be homophobic," mused a guy working in a downtown bar last night. "And it's really stupid to be homophobic if you're in the restaurant business. And it's really stupid to be homophobic if you're in the fashion business." The subject of his rant: Taavo Somer, the 35-year-old owner of faux-rustic LES hipster haven Freemans and faux-nautical bar The Rusty Knot and proprietor of his own fashion line of $88 t-shirts. Somer was anointed by New York magazine this year as "the next groovy thing," the embodiment of forward-thinking hipster cool. But this ex-employee was of the opinion that Taavo is an ass [UPDATE: Even more opinions now, below!]: According to this guy—who worked at one of Somers' places for an extended period of time—Somer is not just a homophobe; he is dumb. I believe the approximate descriptor was, "big, idiotic bigot." He described Somer as an "idiot savant," able to build successful restaurants while being, simultaneously, "one of the stupidest people I ever met." He also said just about everyone who's worked in Somers' establishments can't stand him. The conversations, he said, go like this: "Oh, you used to work at Freemans?" (*Shakes head in dismay*). Of course, Taavo can always escape to his upstate estate if things get too negative in the city. Just one ex-employee's opinion! Feel free to email us a rebuttal, Taavo. UPDATE: We've received two additional notes about Taavo. The first comes from restaurateur Ken Friedman, Taavo's business partner:
Taavo is my partner in the rusty knot. He is also a dear friend. Whoever anonymously — aka: cowardly - accused him of being a homophobe (& dumb ( ! )) is just plain wrong, & probably has some sort of agenda — don't EX-employees, who've been fired, always have an agenda?? Taavo is actually one of the most conscientious & open minded people I know. He doesn't ever joke at peoples expense — gay or straight - & never ever talks negatively about anyone, even people who I feel deserve to be verbally battered. If someone wants to hate on taavo, hate the fact that he's in better shape than we are — cuz he runs every single damn morning, way better looking than we are & doesn't get rattled by people who do & say dumb stuff. As I do. These are the things I hate about him.
The second comes from another self-proclaimed ex-employee of Somer's:
I simply had to reply to your post about Taavo. Many years ago, before I was able to live the elegant life of a post-colonial in Africa, I had the misfortune to work at Freemans. Everything your informant said is indeed true. At the time of my employment, Taavo was not the only homophobe there. In fact, it was rampant, as was misogyny, and I believe that he now hires gays because it was strangely obvious and off-putting. A restaurant like that without a single gay? The whole thing was such a joke that one employee (a girl) bought Taavo the DVD of "Brokeback Mountain" for Christmas. Best joke ever! The look on his flummoxed face! Beyond his anti-gayness, he is a total idiot.