After a monthlong closure following an outpour of sexual assault allegations against owners, The Colonial, Dos Rios Cantina and The Stone Fox are open once again.
In a Facebook post on Jan. 7, The Colonial announced its reopening, also announcing the presence of a new management team. The restaurants opened for in-person dining and takeout later that night and operated under a limited schedule until Jan. 16. Currently, all restaurants have returned to their normal hours of operation.
The Colonial, Dos Rios Cantina and The Stone Fox all initially closed on Dec. 9, amid sexual assault allegations made against owners. The Binghamton Police Department (BPD) had announced it was investigating an incident involving the owners of the restaurants that took place on Nov. 28, with no arrests made according to BPD Detective Captain Cory Minor. Additional allegations of sexual assault, including alleged instances of drugging by owners, had been made on social media, primarily on a Facebook group now named “Binghamton Believes Survivors of Sexual Assault,” which has since grown to over 14,200 members.
In The Colonial’s Facebook post, the restaurants also announced the hiring of an external law firm outside of Broome County, a new independent HR firm and the presence of meetings with staff to hear their concerns. The post did not provide an update on the individuals the restaurants had formerly said were placed on leave amid the allegations.
“First and foremost, we want you to know that we are deeply sorry for the poor handling of the recent situation and initial social media posts,” the Facebook post read. “We want to assure you that we have a revised management team in place handling all day-to-day operations of the businesses. Furthermore, we understand the allegations in question are serious and traumatic. We condemn sexual violence in all forms.“
In a Facebook post from Dec. 10 — later deleted — in which The Colonial had announced its earlier attempted reopening, the allegations were described as “baseless,” and the restaurants stated their refusal to comment on “cancel culture.”
Nick Pasquale, one of several admins of the “Binghamton Believes Survivors of Sexual Assault” Facebook group, had worked as a server at Dos Rios Cantina for approximately a year until November 2019.
Pasquale said he was made aware of the sexual assault allegations as they began to spread on social media in the days after Nov. 28, and had personally known one of the victims who had shared her story of sexual assault on Facebook in the days following.
He described witnessing some instances of harassment from an owner of the restaurants — allegedly placed on leave – during his time as a server.
“I would often sort of catch [an owner] saying inappropriate things to, especially hostesses, at the front end, who were oftentimes barely 18, maybe 19,” Pasquale said. “[The owner] would make comments about what they were wearing and how [the owner] enjoyed it — very much in that sort of inappropriate way. Very oftentimes I would see [the owner] going up to that host stand, especially if he were alone with them, [the owner] would try to go up there when it was able to just be [the owner] and them. Sometimes it almost looked as though that hostess was cornered.”
Pasquale said he had become one of the admins of the Facebook group following the “Downtown Shutdown” protest, in which hundreds of protestors had marched to each of the three restaurants, sharing stories of sexual assault and harassment. Pasquale said the restaurants’ reopening lacked substantial changes, and that instating “new management” was rather just shifting around the face of the restaurant.
Currently, members of the Facebook group have been sharing information and resources for sexual assault survivors, as well as news updates regarding the ongoing police investigation.
One anonymous BU student, who had formerly worked as a server for Dos Rios Cantina and quit in the weeks following the initial allegations, said the owners had shared the recent Facebook announcement with staff before posting, and held two separate staff meetings to hear concerns.
“When they planned to reopen, I wasn’t surprised, I knew there was no way they would just close down the restaurants fully, and I can say for a fact that they stayed closed down for as long as they could (they couldn’t remain closed and keep paying all their employees),” the former server wrote in an email. “As for the measures listed in the Facebook post, those were more or less what I was expecting to see. I would’ve liked to see them take more accountability for what happened inside [The] Colonial and more safety measures for the customers in general.”
While the student said they had not personally witnessed instances of sexual assault, they said they had experienced forms of mistreatment from one of the owners allegedly responsible, including not being given adequate break times and being subject to verbal harassment. The student said that individuals in lower management had expressed an interest in rectifying the situation surrounding the restaurants’ closure, and that the restaurants had continued to pay servers when closed.
“For the time being they are following through with the promises they made,” the former server wrote. “Lastly, I think it’s because I try to reason with myself that 200 people didn’t/don’t deserve to lose their jobs because of the actions of [individuals].”
In the days following the initial closure of the restaurants, Binghamton University’s Student Association (SA) announced on Instagram its support for the ongoing community-wide boycott of the establishments, a boycott that had also been called for by members of the Facebook group, then-named “Boycotting Colonial, Dos Rios, Stone Fox, etc.”
Samantha Carroll, SA vice president for student success and a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said the SA E-Board believes continuing the boycott is necessary.
“I think these businesses need to recognize that earning back a community’s trust is not something that happens over the course of a month,” Carroll wrote. “They have a lot to prove and it’s unclear if that is even possible.”
Carroll said the new policies instated by the restaurants, including its new management team, HR firm and meetings with staff, were not enough to support the reopening of the restaurants.
“While these may be a step in the right direction, they are entirely internal,” Carroll wrote. “They provided no clear plan to mitigate their negative impact on the community and for this reason, it is not justified.”
The Women’s Student Union (WSU) had also called for a boycott of the restaurants, including several other establishments, amid the allegations of sexual assault and allegations of “racial violence” and mistreatment by restaurant owners.
Abigail Cornelia, president of WSU and senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, also said the restaurants’ reopening plans were inadequate, describing the reopening as a practical decision made due to the replenishment of staff, who had quit en masse in December.
“Rape culture coupled with the exploitative culture of the service industry cannot be rectified in a day, it takes a long, consistent, reframing of how we view each other and abolishment of the idea that any relationship is transactional,” Cornelia wrote in an email. “I am very skeptical that a collection of overpriced, gentrifying gastropubs cares to put in the work necessary to rectify that environment. Continuing to boycott these establishments is an incredibly easy way to show solidarity to not only the victims that have bravely come forward, but also the victims of sexual violence in your life.”
The Colonial, Dos Rios Cantina and The Stone Fox did not respond to Pipe Dream’s requests for comment.
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.