The founder of Columbus, Ohio-based Actual Brewing has been accused of multiple incidents of sexual misconduct by several former employees and beer industry professionals, according to the Columbus Alive, a weekly entertainment magazine and website operated by GateHouse Media’s Columbus Dispatch.
Columbus Alive spoke with several women who alleged that 41-year-old Fred Lee, who founded the brewery in 2012 and served as its CEO until recently, engaged in behavior ranging from sexual assault to harassment.
The allegations come at a time when reports of sexual misconduct by employees at craft breweries — including New Belgium, Melvin Brewing, and West Coast Grocery Company — have surfaced in recent months.
An email obtained by Columbus Alive that was sent to employees on February 5 by Lee’s wife and the brewery’s co-owner, Mira Lee, stated that her husband was stepping down as CEO “out of concern for the impact that the accusations and investigation will surely have on livelihoods and day-to-day responsibilities of our 37 team members.” However, Fred Lee has maintained his ownership stake in the brewery.
Lee, as well as his attorney, William A. Settina, have both denied the allegations, calling them “the false and scurrilous.”
One employee, Natalie Phillips, shared with the the outlet two instances of alleged sexual assault and other instances of unwanted advances that occurred after interactions with Lee. In once incident, following a night of drinking with Lee that ended at the brewery’s taproom, Phillips said she woke up in a room at the brewery that was equipped with a bed. According to Phillips, Lee was on top of her and had his hands down her pants. In another incident, that also came after the consumption of alcoholic beverages, she again woke up at the taproom as Lee was “having sex with her,” Columbus Alive reported.
Phillips, who is now on administrative leave pending an investigation of Lee by the brewery’s advisory board, filed a complaint in October with the Columbus police accusing Lee of sexual assault. A detective told the outlet that the case is inactive and could be revisited with additional evidence.
Read the full story, which includes more detailed accounts of Lee’s alleged sexual misconduct, on Columbus Alive.