The Colonial, Dos Rios Cantina and The Stone Fox all closed their doors Thursday, Dec. 9 amid sexual assault allegations against the restaurants’ owners.
The Binghamton Police Department (BPD) announced in a news release Friday that they are “investigating an incident involving the owners of The Colonial” that took place on Nov. 28, also announcing their awareness of “additional allegations” made on social media, according to WBNG. Numerous sexual assault allegations have been made on social media against owners of the restaurants, with many beginning Wednesday night. On Thursday, each establishment shared a since-removed post on their Facebook pages announcing awareness of the allegations and closure until further notice, with “individuals in question placed on leave.”
A Facebook group named “Boycotting Colonial, Dos Rios, Stone Fox, etc.” was created on Wednesday night. The group has since grown to 13,500 members as of Dec. 12, and is now named “Binghamton Believes Survivors of Sexual Assault.” On the page, members posted about their experiences at the restaurants, including some alleged instances of drugging and sexual assault by owners, and encouraged others to share information.
In a since-removed Facebook post made on Friday, Dec. 10, The Colonial announced it would reopen later that evening, yet the restaurant remained closed. Protestors placed paper signs on the windows of the building with phrases such as “protect whistleblowers” and “rape management,” which were taken down later that day.
According to multiple anonymous servers from Dos Rios Cantina and The Stone Fox, also including Ryan La Peruta, a former server at The Stone Fox and senior majoring in biomedical engineering at Binghamton University who quit following the allegations against owners, two individuals were placed on leave due to the allegations. Many managers and employees have since quit the establishments over the past three days, including at least three managers from The Stone Fox according to both La Peruta and an anonymous employee from The Stone Fox, and more than 15 servers from The Colonial by Friday according to anonymous servers from Dos Rios Cantina and The Stone Fox.
Some employees said they had begun to hear rumors of alleged drugging and sexual assault on social media prior to Wednesday, including an apparent screenshot of a Snapchat story circulating. While La Peruta and other employees said they had not personally witnessed alleged drugging and sexual assaults taking place, he said the restaurants did not come out with an immediate statement.
“I told one of my [fellow] workers and we both discussed the rumor and apparently other people knew about the rumor as well and brought it up to management, but no one was coming forward with a statement about any of this until all the social media statements came out the past couple of days,” La Peruta said.
An excerpt from a screenshot of the Snapchat story read, “PSA: to everyone in Binghamton. The owner of [The] Colonial and Dos Rios [Cantina] has been drugging and sexually assaulting girls.”
La Peruta — who, like other servers and managers, said he did not want to work at the restaurant following the allegations — called for accountability and for justice for the victims.
Among the multiple staff members who quit Dos Rios Cantina following the allegations was Joanna Van Slyke, a former server at Dos Rios Cantina and junior majoring in political science at BU. Van Slyke said she had also first heard the allegations of drugging and sexual assault through social media, on a Snapchat story. She wrote about an interaction she had witnessed between an owner — who is allegedly on leave — and an employee.
“I will say there have been various events that showed red flags in relation to what is now going on,” Van Slyke wrote. “I remember a specific incident with [an owner] and a host who is about my age and the same demographic of a young college girl. She was basically being harassed by a man at the host stand outside, which during the warmer weather, happened very often. [The owner’s] only response to this harassment was that he ‘knows that guy’ and that he was not interested in women. Even if [he] was correct about the man’s sexuality, it did not matter. One of his employees felt like she was in danger and he failed to see that and rather backed up the harasser.”
According to a screenshot of the “Dos Rios Hosts” GroupMe, provided to Pipe Dream by an anonymous Dos Rios Cantina employee, another staff member’s suspension was announced on Oct. 6 in a separate incident. The screenshot appears to show an owner citing “serious allegations” as the cause of the staff member’s removal. The owner’s message was sent after another employee sent a message sharing a since-taken-down Reddit post alleging a Dos Rios Cantina staff member was involved in sexual assault. According to La Peruta, Van Slyke and other anonymous employees from Dos Rios Cantina, the individual involved was known as a predator and repeat offender prior to their suspension, which occurred only after increased social media and community attention.
In Friday’s Facebook post — later taken down — The Colonial had announced it would reopen at 5 p.m. and called the allegations unsubstantiated.
“Regarding the allegations at hand, we will not comment on baseless claims,” the post read. “Nor will we comment on cancel culture. As a professional organization we will continue to operate our establishments in a manner that ensures the safety and security of not only our staff but all patrons. We are very grateful for the continuous support from the community.”
Though each of the three restaurants have since remained closed, employees said they are still being paid. Multiple anonymous employees said those remaining at the restaurants were doing so due to a need to remain employed and provide for their families.
“I really don’t want people thinking that, because a lot of the women are pregnant and have to go on maternity leave and collect that money and have three kids at home and have to pay their bills,” an anonymous Dos Rios Cantina employee said. “They are all disgusted but they just morally cannot quit and go hungry. I don’t want a lot of blame being cast on them, I feel really bad about the situation.”
Plans for a protest in Downtown Binghamton were shared in the “Binghamton Believes Survivors of Sexual Assault” Facebook group, and scheduled for Saturday at 8:15 p.m. in response to the sexual assault allegations. Called the “Downtown Shutdown,” protestors marched on both State Street and Court Street, going to each of the three accused restaurants, also marching into XTASY Restaurant & Lounge. At the end of the protest, an open mic session was held, with employees among the speakers, sharing stories of uncomfortable experiences and racism they experienced or witnessed within the restaurants.
The Women’s Student Union announced their demand for a boycott of the three restaurants in an Instagram post on Saturday, calling upon community members to believe sexual assault survivors.
“We encourage those claiming to await more details of the situation to acknowledge that not only are these incidents not isolated, but supporting those of sexual violence begins with believing them,” the Women’s Student Union wrote. “Binghamton carries a pervasive culture of sexual violence that seeps into every aspect of student and community life which is perpetuated and upheld by our own University and its students. Establishments that cater to BU students like those of [The] Colonial, Dos Rios [Cantina] and [The] Stone Fox have a history of racist violence and sexual violence as they gentrify the local community and exploit those most vulnerable.”
The Colonial and Dos Rios Cantina have been restaurants with large followings since their openings in 2015 and 2018, respectively. The Stone Fox is the newest addition, having opened its doors in 2020. According to pressconnects.com, Yaron Kweller, Jordan Rindgen and Animal Adventure Park owner Jordan Patch were among the founders of Dos Rios Cantina, and Kweller was a founder of The Colonial as well.
Patch announced he would cut ties with Dos Rios Cantina and its sister restaurants in a Dec. 9 Facebook post, citing concerns over the recent allegations.
“Being born and raised in Broome County, I’ve always been excited about projects that make the Binghamton area better,” Patch wrote in a the post. “I was excited about the opportunity to invest in Dos Rios Cantina, believing the restaurant would be an asset to our great community and bring culture and vibrancy to Downtown Binghamton. I have never worked on site or been part of day-to-day operations, essentially operating as a silent partner. However, today, I can no longer be silent.”
The Colonial, Dos Rios Cantina and The Stone Fox did not respond to Pipe Dream’s requests for comment.
Lakhsmi Chatterjee was a contributing reporter for this article.
This is a developing story, which will be updated as Pipe Dream receives more information from witnesses and authorities.
If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault, harassment or anything related, the Crime Victims Assistance Center (CVAC) or the Violence, Abuse and Rape Crisis Center (VARCC) are available resources. CVAC is located at 377 Robinson St. in Binghamton and can be reached by phone at (607) 722-4256 for a 24/7 crisis support line or by text at (607) 725-8196. CVAC services are also available at the VARCC office, which is located on the third floor of Old Johnson Hall and can be reached by phone at (607) 777-3010.
Pipe Dream was in contact with sexual assault survivors who opted not to share their story with the media out of a concern for their safety. Those interested in sharing their experiences can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.