The rape allegations against Fred Lee, former owner of Actual Brewing Co., focused attention on sexual misconduct in craft brewing. In its July issue, Columbus Monthly took a closer look at the case and whether it was an isolated incident or symptomatic of a larger industry problem.
On an icy Monday in February, Dru Batte of Brothers Drake Meadery unlocks the doors of the Short North bar around noon to admit a small gaggle of women gathered outside, stamping their feet against the cold. Others filter in slowly, including a few men, until the group numbers about 30. Julia Sivertson, who organized the gathering through Facebook, passes out poster board and markers, and people begin writing out signs: “BELIEVE WOMEN,” “Speak Up,” and this, by 13-year-old Rhea Anderson, “Girls Support Girls.”
Anderson is there with her mother, Natalie Phillips, who sits on a barstool, nervously tapping an extinguished cigarette. It’s just over a week since Phillips went public with allegations of sexual assault and rape against the owner of Actual Brewing Co., Fred Lee, shortly after he hired her. After she spoke with Columbus Alive—a sister publication of Columbus Monthly—numerous additional women came forward with tales of alleged sexual misconduct by Lee, detailed in Alive’s story. Others shared information supporting their accounts. Phillips had filed a complaint with Columbus police, but they did not charge Lee. However, after the article came out, Lee stepped down as CEO of Actual, and the company filed for bankruptcy protection.
Given those events, Sivertson wondered if anyone would show up to the rally. But some who came say they did not want Lee’s ouster to be the end of a story that was, for them, about the larger issue of how women are treated in the alcohol and food service industries. For Sivertson, any reckoning needs to begin with the local beer industry, where there’s evidence that Lee’s transgressions were allegedly known to colleagues and clients.
Continue reading at ColumbusMonthly.com.