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Drink.Well Owner Out of Bar After Assault Allegations

The bar acknowledges the problem and tries to move on

A bar.
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

North Loop bar Drink.Well is reopening today, October 4, after its temporary closure following sexual assault allegations against co-owner Michael Sanders. The bar will now operate with a sole owner, Sanders’ wife and co-owner Jessica Sanders. Michael has checked into a rehabilitation facility.

To recap: In August, Drink.Well’s then-bar manager Becca Yannone wrote on a now-deleted Facebook post that Sanders "forcibly kissed me on the mouth, despite being told multiple times not to.” She resigned the next day, along with three other staffers. The bar subsequently closed for a break.

Shortly after that, Sanders’ wife and Drink.Well’s co-owner Jessica Sanders released a statement via email, saying that the incident has "been nearly incomprehensible to me" and that she was "confused and devastated." She also wrote that she “intend[ed] to help everyone who has been affected by this.”

In order for Drink.Well to reopen now, Sanders unloaded his ownership of the bar completely to his wife, co-owner Jessica Sanders. She also hired a human resources firm as an independent body to address employees’ concerns and complaints.

Jessica Sanders released a new joint statement with Yannone explaining how Drink.Well was moving forward. They wrote that Becca’s account “was taken seriously,” and the two “have worked together, amicably and respectfully, to hear and address Becca’s concerns and find a path forward.” Read on for the full statement below.

In a related side story, the Sanders’ had originally also opened South Lamar cocktail bar Backbeat in 2016. In light of the allegations against Michael Sanders, the owners broke their partnership with the couple, citing that they were “united in this decision."

Drink.Well is open from 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Saturday, and from 4 to 11 p.m. on Sunday, with expanded hours to come later.

Here’s the full joint statement from Jessica Sanders and Becca Yannone:

Drink.Well would like to express its sincere gratitude to Becca Yannone for bringing a recent difficult event to Drink.Well’s attention. Although the incident did not take place at drink.well, it affected the entire team. Small teams that work closely together often develop a family-like closeness, and drink.well.’s team is no exception.

Becca’s report was taken seriously, and Jessica Sanders and Becca have worked together, amicably and respectfully, to hear and address Becca’s concerns and find a path forward.

Enacting meaningful change requires thoughtful and thorough consideration, and Becca and Jessica came together to resolve this difficult but important issue with careful deliberation over the past several weeks. The time needed for this consideration resulted in the temporary closure of Drink.Well. Jessica and Becca are grateful to the friends, colleagues and the members of the community who have allowed them this time. While Drink.Well and Becca have reached a private resolution, the public portion of their solution includes the actions listed below:

Michael Sanders has divested 100% of his ownership in Drink.Well. to Jessica Sanders and will no longer be part of the management or ownership of the business.

Jessica has engaged an outside human resources firm to serve as an additional outlet and independent resource for employees to address any concerns and complaints.

Jessica is solidifying Drink.Well’s formal, written policies and procedures including those addressing workplace safety, respect and harassment, and will require additional training for all employees, including herself.

Jessica will reopen Drink.Well on Wednesday, October 4, 2017. Becca supports Drink.Well.’s re-opening and wishes Jessica and the new drink.well team every success. Likewise, Jessica and Drink.Well. wish Becca and the other former drink.well. staffers all the best in their future endeavors and express thanks for their valued contributions.

Thank you.


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