Spider House Co-Owner Fires Back at Business Partner in Court

Conrad Bejarano responds to John Dorgan's libel and slander charges

Spider House Co-Owner Fires Back at Business Partner in Court
Photo by John Anderson

Conrad Bejarano, co-owner of Spider House Cafe and Ballroom, has filed two responses to a lawsuit brought against him in October by business partner John Dorgan. On Dec. 21, a day after the Chronicle's cover story on Spider House was published, Bejarano filed a motion to dismiss – arguing that Dorgan's suit challenges Bejarano's right to free speech. The motion relies on the Texas Citizens Participation Act, which specifically protects free speech made in connection with a "matter of public concern."

Dorgan's suit was filed in response to two Facebook posts in October 2017 – one from former Spider House employee Jeremy Rogers alleging Dorgan attempted to "sexually assault" Rogers' wife in 2014, and a response from Bejarano claiming to know nothing of Rogers' story and promising to ban Dorgan from the property. Dorgan has accused both Bejarano and Rogers of libel and slander that he says hurt both him and the business. Bejarano disagrees; in his motion to dismiss, he claims his 2017 statement addressed the "protection of Spider House staff and patrons" without ever reaching a conclusion "as to the validity" of Rogers' claim. Instead, he argues, he was addressing a matter of "public concern as defined by the TCPA."

In a second filing, Bejarano denies all of Dorgan's allegations and "demands strict proof thereof by a preponderance of the credible evidence," requesting relief to which he's entitled, while Dorgan "take[s] nothing by his suit" and bears all costs. Both responses were filed by Bejarano's first lawyer Bernard Weldon Ponder Jr.; on Jan. 3, Bejarano requested that the court substitute counsel; he is now being represented by Paul K. Brow­der and Jared Greathouse of local law firm Blazier, Christensen, Browder & Virr.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Spider House
Faster Than Sound: Changes at Two Campus Cafes
Faster Than Sound: Changes at Two Campus Cafes
The latest on Cactus Cafe and Spider House

Rachel Rascoe, Feb. 4, 2022

Faster Than Sound: Spider House Ballroom Will Cease Live Entertainment
Faster Than Sound: Spider House Ballroom Will Cease Live Entertainment
Longtime local venue converts to arcade bar following co-owner misconduct allegations, code violations, and artist payment delays

Rachel Rascoe, Feb. 8, 2019

More by Sarah Marloff
<i>An Army of Women</i> Tells the Story of a Criminal Justice Crusade in Austin
An Army of Women Tells the Story of a Criminal Justice Crusade in Austin
Julie Lunde Lillesæter shines a light on the women who made Austin a better place for rape survivors

March 8, 2024

City Acknowledges Its Debt to Sexual Assault Survivors
City Acknowledges Its Debt to Sexual Assault Survivors
Seen and heard

Feb. 4, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Spider House, Conrad Bejarano, John Dorgan, Jeremy Rogers, sexual assault

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle