‘We Were Told to Keep the Noise Down:’ Another Napa Valley Wine Train Customer Says She Was Threatened With Removal

Wine Train

Another Bay Area woman is accusing the Napa Valley Wine Train of discriminating against her because of her race, a day after the CEO of the company apologized to a group of woman — 10 black and one white — who were kicked off the train Saturday for laughing too loudly.

Norma Ruiz of San Leandro, Calif., wrote about her frustration on Yelp on April 20 after celebrating her 28th birthday aboard the train.

At that time, Ruiz, who is a Latina, wrote that her group was admonished by the manager of the train over noise. She told Slate the group was even threatened with removal. But, after a social media firestorm erupted over the weekend charging the Napa Valley Wine Train with racism over the ejection of the black women, Ruiz now says she believes race played a role in her case.

A Napa Valley Wine train rep, who identified herself as Kira D., responded to Ruiz’s 2-star Yelp review on April 30, apologizing for the experience.

“We want excellent service provided at all times for all of our guests, and feel terrible that your celebration was not handled in a way that would enhance your experience,” Kira D. wrote, adding that the business would re-evaluate how it had handled the situation.

Ruiz wrote in her Yelp review that the Wine Train was probably not meant for parties larger than four.

“I had a large party of 10, sitting at the lounge train we were enjoying ourselves and we did not realize our group was getting a little loud, we even got to know our neighbors who were also celebrating a birthday,” Ruiz wrote. “At one point a man very rudely approached our group and told us we were annoying other guest at the train. His tone and attitude really bothered us and we would have greatly appreciated it if other guest had complains, to directly approach the train staff rather than coming off so aggressive. [sic]”

Ruiz said that her group reduced their noise level and later moved to the dining car, where she says they were “considerably quieter.”

“Nevertheless, I was shocked when I woman named Melissa, the manager approached us and told us that we needed to keep the noise down because of the previous complain from another guest,” she wrote. “Apparently she did not take the time to realize my party had quiet down significantly and the majority of the noise was coming from the other side of the train. [sic]”

Ruiz told Slate that the manager warned them that if they didn’t keep the noise down, the group – the majority of whom were UC Berkeley graduates – would be kicked off the train.

“At that point, I just felt we were not welcomes at the train,” she wrote. “I did not enjoy the rest of the afternoon. I can understand the rudeness from the other guest, but I just feel management could have done a much better job."

Ruiz wrote she had “no desire to come back to the train.”

"I think it was just that person complaining and then the manager seeing that we were Latino, basically decided to discriminate [against] us because we were Latinos and [a big] group," she told Slate. "Now that I hear about this event with a group of African American ladies being kicked out of the train, I'm seeing a pattern. I'm realizing that how I was treated was not normal."

Napa Valley Wine Train CEO Anthony Giaccio promised to provide diversity training to his employees after Saturday's incident, telling Lisa Johnson, the woman who chronicled the incident that occured to her and her book club, on Facebook: "The Napa Valley Wine Train was 100 percent wrong in its handling of this issue."

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