A former employee of Spider House Cafe has accused co-owner John Dorgan of making unwelcome sexual advances toward his wife in 2014.
Story by Brittany Wagner
The accusations were made in a Facebook post written by Jeremy Rogers on Oct. 25. He writes that Dorgan attempted to assault Tiffany Paciga, Rogers’ wife, after she gave Dorgan a ride home. “When they arrived at his house, he begged her to come inside and started touching her inappropriately. When she rejected his advance, he lunged at her and Tiffany had to physically force him off. She had to force a fully grown 6'3 200+ pound man off her and out of her car,” Rogers writes.
When Rogers approached Spider House management about the situation , he says they told him, "That sucks. I'm sorry that happened. Is she okay?"
Rogers continues to write that he confronted Dorgan on-on-one, and Dorgan apologized and blamed his actions on alcohol. Rogers accepted the apology and worked for Spider House for another year before he was fired for “obtuse and arbitrary reasons.”
Spider House posted their response to Facebook on the evening of Oct. 26. “The current management team was unaware of the events that allegedly transpired between the parties, and are appalled with this situation,” Spider House management writes. “At this time, the owner in question has been banned from the premises, and is now and forever, a silent partner. While there is nothing we can do to remedy the past, we are taking the appropriate steps to make sure our Spider House Family feels comfortable and secure.”
A community forum to discuss the events had been scheduled for Oct. 30 but has since been cancelled and rescheduled for an undetermined date.
Rogers and Paciga felt empowered to come forward with their story because of the #MeToo campaign and hope their story will encourage others to share their stories. “It is only through the strength of everyone around us throughout the #metoo movement that we have decided to come forward and face this head on,” Rogers writes.
Calliope Musicals, an Austin-based band, announced on their Facebook page that they were moving the location of their Nov. 11 performance because of the allegations. “As long as the co-owner and ‘silent partner’ John Dorgan is continuing to profit off of events at Spider House, we do not feel comfortable having shows there,” the band writes. “In our current political and social climate, we think it’s more important than ever to show abusive people that they cannot continue to mistreat and disrespect those around them AND maintain business as usual.”
Austin Poetry Slam is a weekly event held in the Spider House Ballroom that showcases spoken word artists. “Our organizers, and the poets who perform during our weekly shows, are strong advocates for equality, women's rights, and the protection of individual's civil liberties,” they write in an email. “We feel that it is important that we continue to take the stage and be a voice to continue to bring awareness, fight for those who do not have a voice, and ring the alarm.” They do not plan on relocating their show because Dorgan has been barred from the premises and is not involved in the cafe’s daily procedures.
French and humanities senior Barrett Smith leads the team that is compiling The Morning After Zine, a project promoting self-care and community for survivors of sexual violence. Smith had been hosting meetings at Spider House until she became aware of the allegations. “Even though nothing's been confirmed yet, as a zine and group that's meant to support survivors, it was important to me and our mission [to] believe the people speaking out and take the accusations seriously,” Smith says in a message. “For us that means no longer supporting Spider House financially, as well as protecting ourselves and our members by not putting them in the position where they might have to be around or interact with an abuser.”
An inquiry into the future date of the community forum went unanswered by Spider House general manager Jeremy Durnford.