Editor's Note: The following is The Big Spoon, an opinion column on San Antonio's food and drink scene.
Last week, as San Antonio was in the throes of Fiesta, several media outlets reported on the arrest of Dillonger Hackett, a 30-year-old bartender at Viva Tacoland, for drugging and sexually assaulting two out-of-town bar-guests. The headlines, which has since been updated to include the bar’s name, were bold to be sure – “SAPD: Pearl-area bartender spiked women’s drinks, sexually assaulted 2.”
And since then, more allegations have surfaced against Hackett, which detectives are following up on.
Let’s be real: If he’s guilty as charged, it’s not like he only had two roofies on him.
Reaction within the bartending community was a mixed bag of tone-deaf jokes and call-outs on social media, the latter coming most notably from one of the city’s leading bar owners.
“Shit like this is a constant reminder that in reality, our industry is a breeding ground for dirt bags who are predators, drug addicts and bros who sent drunk dick pics,” wrote Jeret Pena of Still Golden Social House, The Brooklynite, Rumble, and just-closed Last Word.
It was refreshing to see a stance from one of the city’s top bartenders, but what does that mean in action?
At Still Golden last week, Pena and Rumble business partner Chad Carey shared how they’ve added measures to safeguard employees, guests and the bottom line from would-be asshats. And it starts at the top with leaders coming to terms with the fact that the #metoo movement is here to stay and women aren’t shying away from outing assaulters and creeps.
Within the Boulevardier Group, Pena says weekly meetings have become strictly “cut and dry” business affairs. At Empty Stomach, four managers are on-call to listen to any complaints brought against other employees and guests. Both entities have banned several bar-goers for inappropriate behavior.
“I do more shhh-ing now when I hear staff making inappropriate jokes because that can’t be the way things are going,” Carey said. “The same old dick jokes can’t fly anymore.”
Empty Stomach has hosted training on how to spot assault with a Rape Crisis Center representative who led a presentation and Q&A session with the staff.
“We already know the problem kids, who we will not work with or hire,” Pena said.
For Danielle Chapman, bar manager at TBA and seasoned veteran of the bar industry, the incident at Viva Tacoland is both terrifying and sad. And after consulting with bar friends who knew of Hackett and “weren’t shocked” by his arrest, Chapman insists on more communication within the industry to weed out would-be aggressors.
“If you see something, or know something, say something,” Chapman said.
At TBA, which has four employees, three of whom are women, it’s all about having each other’s backs and that of their customers who just want to have a drink.
“Also, we were harassed immediately after walking into TBA and the bartender shut that shit down immediately and kicked the assholes bothering us out so shout out to that queen for making TBA a safe space for mujeres,” said one posted on Instagram after bartenders ejected dudes who couldn’t take no for an answer.
Bars are hedonistic by nature. We’re all just trying to have a good time while enjoying a cocktail, whether alone or with friends.
During Hackett’s perp walk, Sgt. Michelle Ramos ended the presser by putting the onus on women to be on the defensive.
“Be careful. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t leave your drinks alone. Always be at the counter when you buy your drinks and don’t let anybody bring the drink to you,” she said. “He was an extremely nice individual who took advantage of the situation.”
Or maybe he wasn’t nice at all.
So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest San Antonio dining news with our Flavor Friday Newsletter.