In response to alleged sexual assault claims against Spider House Cafe, the business’ co-owner John Dorgan is now suing the accusers and the co-owner of the business for slander, per the Chronicle.
In October 2017, former employee Jeremy Rogers wrote a Facebook post alleging that his wife Tiffany Paciga was assaulted by Dorgan in 2014. In the post, Rogers says that Paciga drove Dorgan home after he had been drinking. When they arrived, he “started touching her inappropriately” and “lunged at her.”
Rogers says that he confronted Spider House’s management and that Dorgan apologized, but he says that he went on to face a “nightmarish” year of employment for a year after the confrontation. In the Facebook post, Rogers described how Dorgan “belligerently consumed inappropriate amounts of alcohol” and “terroriz[ed]” himself and the staff when Dorgan refused to serve him further.
In response to Dorgan’s claim, Spider House co-owner Conrad Bejarano said that “the current management team was unaware of the events” and that they were “appalled with this situation,” in a Facebook post a day later. As a result of the accusation, he said that Dorgan wasn’t allowed on the premises anymore and that he was downgraded to Spider House’s silent partner.
Spider House was also supposed to hold a community forum that same month to discuss the incident, but that was canceled and never rescheduled.
Now, Dorgan’s civil suit claims that Bejarano and Rogers engaged in “libel and slander that is false, misleading, and defamatory” to himself and to Spider House. He said that, as a result of the accusation, he had to resign from the board of the Austin Independent Business Alliance, groups have canceled events at the cafe/bar like folk band Calliope Musicals, and that personal business contacts have fallen through.
As part of the suit, Dorgan wants Bejarano to state that he didn’t have the right to ban him from Spider House or make him a silent partner. He also wants both Rogers and Bejarano to update their October 2017 statements regarding the alleged incident. Money-wise, he is asking for “over $100,000, but not more than $1,000,000.”
In response to Dorgan’s lawsuit, Jeremy Rogers and Tiffany Paciga (she isn’t named in the suit) started a crowdfunding campaign via GoFundMe to raise money. They’re seeking $10,000 for a lawyer and other such fees. They will file an answer of general denial in response to the lawsuit, Rogers told Eater.
According to the GoFundMe campaign, several other victims have stepped forward to support Rogers and Paciga, under the name the Spider House Victims, a collective of people who have allegedly experienced and witnessed “assault, harassment, and general malpractice at Spider House.” The group started soon after Rogers and Paciga published their claims on Facebook. Rogers revealed that there are almost 30 people in the group, however they wish to remain anonymous.
When contacted about the lawsuit, Bejarano told Eater: “It’s already challenging enough for local businesses to survive in the Austin business environment these days, then to have a situation that may or may not have occurred between two parties outside Spider House grounds [derail my focus on the business].”
“This issue should have been handled between each other, rather than drag innocent parties into the mix,” he continued. He reiterated that he had no knowledge of what allegedly happened between Dorgan, Paciga, and Rogers.