Two former employees of the bar and music venue The Liquor Store are suing an investor of the bar, Cooper DuBois, for inappropriately touching them. Willamette Week first reported that Charlotte McCaslin and Elizabeth Elder have filed two separate lawsuits, describing years of sexual harassment perpetrated by DuBois and tolerated by management at the Southeast Portland bar.
McCaslin’s complaint describes a pattern of misconduct that began in November 2017, when she began working as a bartender and server at the Southeast Portland venue: “Throughout Ms. McCaslin’s employment Defendant DuBois would repeatedly hug her and kiss her,” the complaint reads. The suit claims McCaslin reached out to managers, who did not attempt to stop DuBois’ behavior. In February 2020, she resigned “because she could not tolerate the repeated sexual harassment.” McCaslin is suing for $750,000 in damages from DuBois and the bar itself, citing the Liquor Store’s hostile work environment, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination; the suit claims the owners are “vicariously liable” for allowing the behavior to continue. McCaslin also told the Portland Mercury that DuBois repeatedly misgendered her as a form of antagonism.
The lawsuit filed by Elder, who booked shows for the bar, alleges that on July 4, 2019, DuBois “intentionally and forcefully grabbed an intimate part of her body below the waist, with no warning, against her will and without her permission.” Elder is suing DuBois for $1 in nominal damages. “I wanted to make it clear that this… is about their behavior,” Elder told Eater PDX. “It’s to keep it focused on the accountability for how [the bar and DuBois] acted.”
Speaking with various outlets, McCaslin, Elder, and others describe DuBois using the Liquor Store as a venue to harass and abuse women, though without explicit details, and claim that bar owner Ray Morrone and upper management allowed it to continue after being made aware. Elder told Eater PDX that employees reached out to management “dozens” of times about DuBois’ sexual harassment, but the inappropriate comments and touching continued; Elder believes several employees left the company in 2019 as a result of the behavior. (Neither Morrone nor DuBois have responded to repeated requests for comment.)
A former bar manager who spoke anonymously with the Mercury also shared similar experiences, saying that employees would complain about his behavior regularly, and that the owners and management would brush off any complaints. Additionally, DJ Ben Fuller told the Mercury that he quit his job for the bar in 2019 due to the management’s inaction to harassment he had witnessed.
The Mercury also reports that Morrone had set up a relief fund for furloughed workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent bar and dining room closures. While DuBois had originally promised to donate a large sum in support, he now claims that the money would have to go to legal fees, current employees told the Mercury.
“We had this quote at the bar, ‘Cooper will be Cooper.’ That’s what we were told every time we brought [his behavior] up,” Elder says. The bar is currently closed.
• The Liquor Store [Official]
• Elizabeth Elder’s complaint [Official]
• Charlotte McCaslin’s complaint [Official]
• Lawsuit Accuses SE Portland Bar of Tolerating Investor’s Persistent Sexual Harassment of Staff [Merc]
• Former Employees Sue Southeast Portland Bar the Liquor Store, Alleging Sexual Misconduct by an Investor [WWeek]