Two recent employees at Sewickly Addition, a bar on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, say they're concerned a manager accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women is back on the job.
Employees say Brian Baker, 50, returned in July as general manager of the bar owned by his mother, Gretchen Malmberg, 72. Baker's return came after his family settled two lawsuits late last year that two women filed separately against him in 2006 (see "Strange Brew," WW, Feb. 22, 2006).
"People are afraid to go in there," says Joel Williams, who worked as a barback at Sewickly until quitting Nov. 29. "My friends told me they don't want to take their girls in there."
Williams, 23, says he learned about the lawsuits after he began work at the bar in mid-October. He says customers have repeatedly expressed discomfort about Baker to staff, though Baker mainly stays behind the scenes in the office working on the books.
Baker declined to comment for this story other than calling WW's 2006 story on the lawsuits "bullshit" and "slanted." It's unclear whether the women reported the alleged assaults to police.
Baker was never charged with any crime, but it's clear Baker's return has some workers at the bar pissed off.
"None of the employees wanted him there," says Erin McRae, who's worked on and off at Sewickly for two years as a bartender but quit after Baker returned. "Not a lot of people like him."
According to the lawsuits, Baker took a leave of absence in late 2005 after a police investigation into thefts from the bar's lottery machines. A police report requested last week by WW wasn't immediately available. He returned in July of this year, employees say. The two lawsuits were filed in February 2006 in Multnomah County Circuit Court by a former waitress at Sewickly and a customer, respectively. The lawsuits described an alleged assault in June 2005 and another in November of that year.
Both lawsuits alleged the women had passed out and were sexually assaulted after drinking with Baker and former Sewickly bouncer Levi Wood, who was dropped as a defendant after he joined the Army and left town.
The lawsuit by the ex-waitress said she had consumed a few drinks at Sewickly with Baker and Wood after the bar closed, lost consciousness, and awoke in Baker's office with her pants and underwear removed. The customer's lawsuit said that after consuming part of a drink in Baker's hot tub in his home with Baker and Wood, she passed out and later woke up in bed naked next to Wood.
The attorney for both plaintiffs, Martin Dolan, declined to comment for this story. So did one of the plaintiffs. The other could not be reached.
Both suits were settled out of court in November 2007. Court documents do not give the amount of the settlement, but a deed of trust indicates Malmberg owes the two plaintiffs a total of $120,000.
We found Baker on Nov. 22 at Sewickly's Home Plate, the knickknack-cluttered diner adjacent to the bar. Malmberg also owns the diner.
Malmberg earlier had declined comment by telephone. When WW asked for her at the diner, Baker—heavyset with graying blond hair—ordered this reporter to leave.
"Time to go," Baker said. "I'm 86-ing you."