The Austin Chronicle

Sparks Flying Over Spider House

Owner files suit after sexual misconduct scandal

By Sarah Marloff, November 30, 2018, News

Jeremy Rogers and his wife Tiffany Paciga have launched a GoFundMe appeal in response to a lawsuit filed against Rogers by his former boss John Dorgan, co-owner of Spider House Cafe and Ballroom. The couple, who released an "open letter" via Facebook in October 2017 accusing Dorgan of attempted sexual assault against Paciga several years prior, are hoping to raise $10,000 to retain a lawyer and cover legal fees.

Since stepping forward, inspired by last year's #MeToo movement, the couple reports via their GoFundMe that "multiple" other Spider House victims and witnesses have come forward as well. Rogers and Paciga, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, also admit to working with a group known as the Spider House Victims, who released an anonymous email to undisclosed recipients in March claiming to represent folks who've been mistreated by Spider House. Together with this group, the couple said in their GoFundMe they're working to "bring truth and justice to the Austin Community concerning these collective awful experiences and allegations. ... We always have always been and always will be TELLING THE TRUTH. ... We have everything it takes to win this suit."

Filed on Oct. 19, Dorgan's civil suit against both Rogers and co-owner Conrad Bejarano accuses both defendants of libel and slander that is "false, misleading, and defamatory" to Dorgan and to Spider House. Rogers is cited for the aforementioned social media post, which has been shared 175 times, and Bejarano for releasing a statement in response to the couple's claim, which asserted Spider House management at the time was "unaware of the events that allegedly transpired between the parties," and that Dorgan had been "banned from the premises, and is now and forever, a silent partner." The suit accuses Bejarano of accepting the couple's claim as truth and notes that Bejarano "avoided communication with Dorgan" after Rogers and Paciga shared their story and before making his own statement.

A year has passed since all of this transpired, but Dorgan now seeks monetary relief of "over $100,000 but not more than $1,000,000." In the suit, he claims the allegations have "harmed and damaged" his personal and professional reputation: He was asked to resign from the board of the Austin Indepen­dent Business Alliance, two business contracts fell through, and "numerous groups" canceled events at the venue. (The suit also argues that Bejarano's statement was an untruthful attempt to conceal his own responsibility for mishandling Rogers' and Paciga's accusations at the time the two letters were posted on social media*.) Aside from money, Dorgan is seeking a "declaratory judgement" that Bejarano didn't have legal authority to ban Dorgan from the property, limit his ownership share of Spider House to 50%, or make him a silent partner. It asks that both Rogers and Bejarano "correct, clarify, or retract certain statements" made in their respective October 2017 Facebook posts, and seeks – among other damages – relief for "mental anguish," loss of earnings, and attorney fees, along with "exemplary damages" awarded against Bejarano, who "acted with malice."

This story previously reported that Dorgan's suit argues Bejarano's statement was an untruthful attempt to conceal his responsibility for mishandling the accusations at the time of the events in question. It has since been updated to better reflect the lawsuit.

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