1. Food

A petition is calling for Chicago to shut down El Hefe

More than 4,300 Chicago bar and restaurant staff (and counting) have signed a petition demanding that the town of Chicago droop the liquor license from Hubbard Street bar El Hefe till police end investigating two alleged sexual assaults that made nationwide headlines in late 2019. The petition criticizes the bar’s coverage of eradicating overly intoxicated patrons by way of a again door, as depicted in a viral video launched in November. The petition claims that the coverage — together with feedback made in a personal Facebook web page by individuals who claimed to work for El Hefe — illustrates a “dangerous workplace culture.”

The demand is in response to video footage of one of many assaults and two separate lawsuits filed late 2019 by two ladies who allege that their drinks have been drugged at El Hefe and so they have been then raped; the ladies accuse El Hefe administration of negligence. As said within the second lawsuit, filed by Elizabeth Capra, El Hefe’s “agents/employees knew or should have known that the assailant posed a risk of danger to the plaintiff, and specifically a danger of sexual assault.” Capra stated medicine affected her reminiscence and that she was assaulted after leaving the bar.


This video taken in October went viral.

The video was launched in November by attorneys representing the primary lady to sue El Hefe, who has anonymously filed as Jane Doe. The footage, taken from the night time of October 18, reveals a person carrying purple sneakers escorting her by way of the bar’s again door. She’s taken to part of the alley the place the lawsuit states that the person sexually assaulted her whereas the digital camera recorded two El Hefe bouncers close to the door, about 100 ft from Doe and the person. Doe alleges that she was drugged earlier than exiting the bar.

About per week after Doe filed her lawsuit, her attorneys held a information convention to announce they have been submitting one other lawsuit on the behalf of a second lady. Capra, who lives in Florida and was visiting Chicago, got here ahead in December with the same story of being drugged and raped in October 2014.

Police are looking out for the person who allegedly assaulted Doe. Two days after attorneys for Doe introduced her lawsuit, El Hefe posted a press release on Facebook, writing that it was cooperating with police and that “what we understand this woman has alleged is extremely troubling.” The put up additionally said that “our security team did not witness an assault in the alley.” Many learn that line as an try to discredit Doe’s account as a sufferer. A day after Capra’s information convention, El Hefe was extra contrite in a second Facebook put up and said the assaults “are unacceptable in any part of our city.”

According to El Hefe spokesperson Lissa Druss, the bar required all workers to attend a paid workshop that it organized for restaurant and bar staff on Christmas Eve. A former Illinois State Police trooper led the coaching, which lined — in accordance to a flyer — how to spot “over intoxication, human trafficking, domestic violence, that a person has been given a ‘date rape’ drug, and other behaviors indicative of a person in distress.”

Brian Monico, an lawyer for Doe and Capra, known as El Hefe’s seminar a publicity stunt. The state already requires restaurant and bar staff to undergo alcohol-awareness coaching as a part of the BASSET certification, Briggs stated.

Resilience, a not-for-profit group that gives authorized providers, trainings, and different help sources for home violence victims, held a protest on November 27 exterior of El Hefe. Sarah Layden, the group’s director of packages and public coverage, questioned whether or not a state trooper was certified to lead the seminar, as many trainings concentrate on what victims can do to keep away from being attacked, like conserving a detailed watch on their drinks. “The victims aren’t the ones choosing to be assaulted,” she stated.

The bar’s attorneys drew criticism earlier this month whereas beginning its protection through the use of a typical authorized tactic: claiming in court docket that Jane Doe “was more than 50 percent of the proximate cause of the injury” — in different phrases, that the assault was largely her personal fault.

The response raised the eyebrows of Brian Monico, one in all Doe and Capra’s attorneys. “I don’t know if the right phrase is ‘out of touch,’” he stated. “It just seems a little callous and also a little like the slut shaming you would see on various message boards.”

Druss stated the bar’s possession understands how its responses may anger individuals. But she desires the general public to know the “words used in legal defense in no way reflect the hearts” of El Hefe’s staff and administration, and reiterated that El Hefe is totally cooperating with police. Supporters of the petition, together with its originator, Jesse Briggs, don’t imagine that — in truth, Briggs alleged to Eater that the bar’s workers is defending the person’s identification.

Briggs is a Chicago restaurant business veteran who works as an operations advisor, opening eating places together with Bulldog Alehouse in South Loop. Briggs is additionally an admin for the Chicago Service Industry Facebook web page, a personal group for restaurant and bar staff the place many share server memes, vent, and get their business information. “They’re working hard to cover their asses,” Briggs stated to Eater “They’re 100 percent culpable; that is the consensus among our group.”

The group desires the town to short-term droop the bar’s license. That’s been a tactic aldermen have used to shut bars down, equivalent to Evil Olive in Noble Square. The group stated they don’t need utterly shut El Hefe down; it may stay open with no liquor license and serve meals, they purpose.

Briggs was additionally troubled by a sequence of statements posted by way of the personal group by individuals claiming to be El Hefe staff. Statements like “another fake story by the attorney” and “it won’t shut down! Not losing my job over some drunk broads.” El Hefe spokesperson Druss reviewed these posts, and although the posts weren’t made by nameless accounts, she said that there’s no concrete proof these posters have been truly El Hefe staff. She stated El Hefe staff have been topic to on-line bullying, including that nobody has stop their job over possession’s response to the lawsuits.

Resilience’s Layden desires to use El Hefe as a wake-up name to the business, which she stated ought to do extra to shield its patrons. She has additionally been disillusioned with the bar’s responses, together with the 2 Facebook posts.

“I know that everything is difficult when you have pending litigation and their attorneys aren’t going to admit any culpability in the matter,” Layden stated. “But some level of accountability needs to be taken. Even it it’s ‘we’re taking this very seriously, making sure this never happens again.’”

Elizabeth Capra (heart left), flanked by her authorized workforce as she speaks throughout a December press convention.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

El Hefe has areas in Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona. Attorney Monico stated he’s heard complaints from prospects at these bars as properly. The Chicago location opened in 2013 on Hubbard Street, a notoriously busy strip for bar nightlife. The possession group, 15 Hubbard LLC, is made up of a number of traders.

“El Hefe’s ownership is comprised of men and women who are deeply troubled about the missing facts that will aid, help, and lead to an outcome of this very important police investigation,” Druss stated.

When pressed about what details have been lacking, Druss stated the plaintiffs’s attorneys have but to launch the total video. She additionally took challenge with the notion that El Hefe’s workers was one way or the other defending the person from the video. “There are egregious things out there about staff, that they drug their patrons all the time, that the bouncers know who the man in the red shoes is,” Druss stated.

Doe’s attorneys met on Friday in court docket, one other in what must be a protracted string of appearances. The metropolis may nonetheless take motion by shutting the bar down by revoking its liquor license — a course of that one other Arizona import, Bottled Blonde, has fought for the final 5 years. City of Chicago officers referred all inquiries to Chicago police. A police spokesperson confirmed the investigation was ongoing, and added that no arrests have been made of their efforts to apprehend the person within the purple sneakers.

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