Some avid SoulCyclers’ wheels are turning today as they learned that one of the company’s investors, Stephen Ross, is hosting a fundraiser for President Donald Trump. There have been calls for boycotts and outrage from celebs like Chrissy Teigen, not to mention a petition asking Ross to cancel the lunch event in the Hamptons that costs up to $250,000 per person.
But the billionaire and Miami Dolphins owner isn’t just an investor in SoulCycle and Equinox. There’s also D.C.’s own &pizza. Through his company, RSE Ventures, Ross pumped at least $25 million into the fast-growing, conveyor-belt pizza chain back in 2017.
According to RSE Ventures website, Ross has other foodie ties, including reservation platform RESY and restaurateur David Chang‘s Momofuku empire. The Post also counts coffee chain Bluestone Lane as one of his investments. Like Equinox and SoulCycle, all have a presence in the D.C. market.
On Twitter, &pizza describes itself as “an anti-establishment establishment,” and its founder, Michael Lastoria, just penned a piece on Medium voicing his support for the Democrat-backed Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimal wage to $15 an hour. “It would be a huge step in the right direction for not just the food industry, but the country,” he writes.
Equinox and SoulCycle put out a statement distancing themselves from Ross on Twitter. It reads:
“To our community, many members raised their concerns about a political fundraiser taking place later this week. We want to let you know that Equinox and SoulCycle have nothing to do with the event and do not support it. As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians. In fact we are committed to all our members and the communities we live in. We believe in tolerance and equality, and will always stay true to those values. Mr. Ross is a passive investor and is not involved in the management of either business. We appreciate all who have reached out to us.”
Meanwhile, Milk Bar‘s Christina Tosi and Momofuku‘s David Chang both made statements addressing their ties to Ross. Chang did so on his podcast, according to the Post, which published this excerpt:
“I personally am a staunch opponent to President Trump and everything he stands for. He is destroying our democratic norms. I cannot stand behind him. This is a complicated situation for me, personally, and I know it raises a lot of questions for the people who dine at our restaurants and have supported us over the years. Steve, if you’re listening — and I know that you listen to this podcast sometimes — I respect and admire you as a businessman. You have been a champion of all the values of Momofuku … but I’m imploring you to reconsider hosting this fundraiser.”
Tosi issued a statement to the Post: “Milk Bar is in no way affiliated with the Trump fundraiser. Stephen Ross is one of many investors in our company, all of whom come from different perspectives. Regardless of investors, our strategy, mission, and company decisions are all made independently by the Milk Bar team and me.”
She continued, “At Milk Bar we believe unequivocally in equal rights for all. We are anti-discrimination, we welcome and celebrate people from all races, sexualities, identities, nationalities, citizenship statuses, religion and beliefs. I do not personally support the policies of the current administration. However, I also don’t mandate what people who work at my company believe politically.”
Restaurateur and humanitarian José Andrés was among the first to put pressure on Ross. His sprawling Spanish market is located in Ross’s New York development, Hudson Yards.
I respect a person’s right to politically support who he chooses but these are not normal times!. So I ask u Steve Ross to use your conscience! Cancel this fundraiser for @realDonaldTrump You are a good man.Don’t support a candidate whose goal is to drive my beloved USA apart! ? pic.twitter.com/mTMhCZsmzl
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) August 8, 2019
Mum’s the word from Lastoria and &pizza. A representative from the company says they have no comment at this time. We will update this story if they eventually release a statement.