‘I deeply regret my actions’: Northern California business owner apologizes after homophobic incident during chili cook-off

‘I deeply regret my actions’: Northern California business owner apologizes after homophobic incident during chili cook-off

The owner of Loco Fish Co, Jayme Knight, who was arrested for a DUI last Thursday after the Humboldt County Fair annual chili cook-off has issued a statement on the incident involving alleged homophobic comments and a box of damaged food

“I am sorry for using language that was hurtful,” he wrote in a prepared statement on the Loco Fish Co. Facebook page.

Thomas Nicholson Stratton, co-owner of the Foggy Bottoms Boys with his husband Cody, noted in an interview with the Times-Standard earlier this week that employees of their company heard a stream of homophobic remarks directed toward them during the chili cookoff at the fair that grew worse over time. Later, the police were called after Knight allegedly ran over a box of food by the Foggy Bottoms Boys chili station, which was next to the Loco Fish Co. station.

RELATED: Homophobia alleged at Northern California chili cook-off 

Knight’s arrest on grounds of driving under the influence by a bicycle officer on patrol on the fairgrounds followed the call from fair security about a Chevy pickup backing up into property near the grandstands.

“He immediately saw the signs of intoxication, red eyes, slurred speech, unsteady balance,” said Ron Sligh, Ferndale Police Department’s chief. Several witnesses identified Knight as driving a vehicle, said Sligh, who noted that Knight refused a breathalyzer test on the scene. A warrant was issued for a blood test later on, the results of which are pending.

Six Rivers Brewery and the Foggy Bottoms Boys, whose cooks and owners are pictured, partnered at the cookoff., where another business owner allegedly used anti-gay slurs and backed a car into their equipment. (Sage Alexander/Times-Standard) 

Knight also said in the Facebook post that running over the box of food owned by Foggy Bottoms Boys was accidental. Sligh said the report lists damage to the property at around $100 to $140.

A separate case has been opened as an investigation of a potential hate crime due to the damaged property and reported anti-gay remarks. The remarks were reported to the department after the arrest and Sligh said that the police have been in contact with the Foggy Bottoms Boys and witnesses.

Knight noted in the post that he is stepping away from the company for rehab as an opportunity to “learn and grow” and his “actions were inappropriate due to alcohol.”

Knight was arrested by the Ferndale Police Department at 6:20 p.m., about 20 minutes after police were called, for driving under the influence. He was released around 11 p.m. later in the evening, according to the Humboldt County jail release sheet. Court records state Knight pleaded guilty to a DUI in 2019.

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A Thursday post from Foggy Bottoms Boys notes that “we have always supported voting with your dollars, however, we never support ‘canceling’ a business or individual. Cancel culture all too often has unintended consequences impacting those downstream,” including employees, the post notes. Calls for boycotts of LoCo Fish Co. followed the initial event by other posters on social media. Sligh noted the incident was upsetting to a lot of people in the community because a visitor from outside Ferndale caused the incident, adding that the Foggy Bottoms Boys is a well-respected business run by civic-minded people.

The Foggy Bottoms Boys recommended in the post supporting local businesses and Queer Humboldt, an organization that planned to hold a community heart circle Zoom call Thursday evening in response to the events at the fair.

The investigation might be submitted to the Humboldt County District Attorney’s office, said Sligh. Witnesses can contact the Ferndale Police Department and ask for Sgt. Robert Lindgren. The Ferndale police are interested in videos of the remarks.

Sligh noted that a total of 19 arrests were made at the fair, all related to alcohol. A different DUI driver ran through a cattle fence near the parking area at the fair.

Sage Alexander can be reached at 707-441-0504.