Napa Valley Wine Train — the company that stirred up controversy after kicking off a group of African American women last month — has been sold to new owners. According to the Press Democrat, the business was purchased by Noble House Hotels & Resorts — a Washington-based hotel group — and California real estate development company Brooks Street. A spokesperson for the Wine Train notes that the company's 150 employees will all retain their jobs.
The sale comes just weeks after the company forced an African American women's book club off of the train for "laughing and talking too loud." While a handful of people have praised the company for its actions, the situation inspired a large national debate and sparked the hashtag "#LaughingWhileBlack." A spokesperson notes that the sale has been in the works "for months" and that the "timing of the sale is in no way related to the recent incident regarding the ladies book club." The women who were kicked off are considering suing Napa Valley Wine Train for upwards of $5 million for "malicious oppression." Will the new owners will have to absorb the lawsuit if it goes forward?
The company was owned by the family of Rice-A-Roni inventor Vincent DeDomenico and details of the sale have not been disclosed. DeDomenico started the company in 1989 and it has since become a popular tourist attraction. Over the years, the Napa Valley Wine Train has received complaints of discrimination from other minority groups, however: In April, a woman wrote on the company's Yelp page that she and nine of her Latino friends were "admonished by the manager for making to[o] much noise."