Austin bar temporarily closes amid sexual assault allegations
North Loop gastropub Drink.well. has temporary closed. The closure comes amid allegations that co-owner Michael Sanders sexually assaulted the bar’s manager; Sanders has checked into an inpatient rehabilitation center for treatment of depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse.
Sanders’ wife, Drink.well. co-owner Jessica Sanders, says in a statement issued by her publicist that her husband will remain at the rehab center “for as long as necessary.”
“As family, friends, and colleagues who are most intimately familiar with us know, Michael has struggled with depression and anxiety for many years,” Jessica Sanders says in the statement. “Alcohol abuse has been the means with which he has often dealt with these issues — the consequences of which are now being most deeply felt. Michael has a very long and multifaceted road of recovery ahead of him and he is now in an environment where he can begin that journey.”
Michael Sanders entered the treatment facility August 15, the statement says. Drink.well. was shut down last week after allegations surfaced that Michael Sanders had sexually harassed bar manager Becca Yannone.
In an August 17 Facebook post, Yannone claims that on August 14, Michael Sanders forcibly kissed her on the mouth, despite Yannone’s repeated refusal of his advances. “My roommate and coworker, Drew, had restrained him, but Michael broke free and did as he pleased,” Yannone wrote.
Right after the incident, Drew submitted his resignation, according to the Facebook post. Yannone says she resigned the next day. Two other senior staff members, identified only as Matt and Gus, also quit, Yannone says.
Jessica Sanders says the remaining employees of Drink.well. will be paid their full salaries for as long as the bar is closed. A Facebook post says the bar will reopen September 5.
Drink.well., which opened in 2012, isn’t the only bar affected by the controversy. Montauriol LLC, the investor in Backbeat, a South Lamar cocktail bar, says it immediately severed its ties with Michael and Jessica Sanders after the allegations of sexual assault became public. The Sanderses were hired to run the bar program at Backbeat, which opened last year.
In her statement, Jessica Sanders says she intends “to help everyone who has been affected by this.”
“I have reached out to the members of the staff at both bars to be as transparent as I can with them and try to understand what may be needed to heal and move forward,” she says. “There was a lot I didn’t know then and there’s a lot I still don’t know now. I am working really quickly to understand the full scope of what has transpired here and be as helpful as possible.”
Jessica Sanders expressed gratitude to people who’ve offered messages of “love, support, and hope” for her and her staff, as well as her and her husband’s families.
“I ask that the community at large please be as supportive as you can to my entire staff, past and present, while they work through this difficult and complex time. Please know I will be doing all I can to help heal the wounds that may have come out of this,” she says.