Dayton beer community rallies around woman involved with sex-assault allegations against Columbus brewery founder

Published: Thursday, February 07, 2019 @ 1:17 PM

(Jenna Eason/Charlotte Observer/TNS)
(Jenna Eason/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

The Dayton beer community is rallying around a Dayton woman and others whose allegations of sexual assault and harassment against the founder of a Columbus craft brewery were detailed in a Columbus Alive story published online Wednesday, Feb. 6.

The story, headlined “Multiple women accuse Actual Brewing founder Fred Lee of sexual assault,” details allegations by Natalie Phillips of Dayton, who had been hired to serve as an Actual Brewing sales representative in the Dayton area, as well as allegations made by other women who agreed to be identified in the Columbus  Alive story. Phillips told the magazine of two encounters with Lee, and she has filed reports with multiple agencies, including the Columbus Police, about those encounters, according to Columbus Alive. 

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“I’m not the first, but I needed to speak up to make sure I’m the last,” Phillips told Columbus Alive.

Lee has called the allegations false, and his attorney told the magazine via email that, “Fred Lee denies that he forced himself upon anyone at any time. The claims leveled against Fred are unfounded and dubious at best. If anyone has such a claim, let them come forward to defend that accusation in a court of law.”

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In an interview today, Feb. 7, Phillips told this news outlet that several Dayton-area business owners, employees and friends have reached out to express support.

“It feels like there are people beside me, holding me up,” Phillips said. “I would not have been able to do this without them, frankly.”

Some Oregon District businesses have started planning a fund-raiser to help pay legal fees, Phillips said.

The owners of Bee-Gee’s Market on Bigger Road in south Kettering wrote on the market’s Facebook page: “In support of our women customers, sales reps, and all of the women in the beverage industry, we will no longer be selling anything from Actual Brewing while there is any cloud hanging over the brewery.”

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And the owners of The Barrel House wrote the following on the downtown Dayton beer bar’s Facebook page:

“We like to believe that our industry is full of open minded, loving people - but that certainly isn’t always the case.  

This is a difficult read, but it’s an important one. Events like the ones depicted here aren’t isolated to the beer industry, and sexual abuse is happening every day.  

We stand with the brave women who came forward, and we believe them.  

We love you, and you are not alone.  

From now until March 31st, for every can or bottle of The Actual Brewing Company beer that is brought into our shop, we will donate $5 to YWCA Dayton, who are advocates for victims of sexual abuse.”

Barrel House co-owner Sara Stathes said she and Barrel House co-founder Gus Stathes “both consider Natalie a close friend, and feel passionately about this issue in general, but especially when it has affected someone we know and love.”

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