What started as a typical night out in December 2017 ended with a local bar temporarily losing its liquor license and an investigation into multiple reports of sexual assault and burglary.
SLO Brew closed its Higuera Street doors on July 18 for the first day of its 20-day alcoholic beverage license suspension, a penalty handed down by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, for an underage drinking incident that occurred in the bar a year and a half earlier. Almost immediately after the closure, rumors spread about why. Most of those tales were spun about an underage drinker who was allegedly assaulted by an Uber driver after leaving SLO Brew. Documents reveal that may be close to what happened.
According to Alcoholic Beverage Control documents, a SLO Brew employee "caused or permitted" two underage individuals, Ezra Henderson and an anonymous Jane Doe, to consume alcoholic beverages in the bar on Dec. 17, 2017.
That same night, an underage woman, listed as Sabrina Doe in court documents, claims she went to SLO Brew and drank with an of-age friend, Shannon Doe, where both women became so intoxicated that they decided to take an Uber home before 10 p.m.
Both women allege in court documents that they were then sexually assaulted by an unknown man, thought by investigators to be Uber driver Alfonso Alarcon-Nunez, a Santa Maria man who is currently facing 12 felony charges—including rape by use of drugs, first degree burglary, forcible rape, grand theft of personal property, and assault—in multiple separate incidents where women across the Central Coast say they were sexually assaulted and stolen from while nearly or completely unconscious.
Despite a Public Records Act request to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and multiple requests for comment and information from the San Luis Obispo Police Department and District Attorney's Office, New Times could not confirm that the rape investigation and SLO Brew's license suspension are connected.
But there are similarities, according to documents New Times did receive.
In both the Alcoholic Beverage Control complaint against SLO Brew and the rape investigation, an anonymous 19-year-old woman was alleged to be drinking at SLO Brew on Dec. 17, 2017.
John Carr, an information officer for Alcoholic Beverage Control, wrote in a series of emails to New Times that while he could not release Jane Doe's exact date of birth—for legal reasons that still aren't clear to New Times—he did confirm that she was 19 at the time of the incident, and that Alcoholic Beverage Control worked with the San Luis Obispo Police Department on that case. The SLO Police Department is leading the ongoing investigation into Sabrina Doe's sexual assault accusations.
Carr also told New Times that while another underage individual was named in the Alcoholic Beverage Control report on SLO Brew, Jane Doe could not be named "due to an ongoing investigation," though he wouldn't say what specifically is being investigated.
During a preliminary hearing in the Alarcon-Nunez case, a detective with the SLO Police Department said that he responded to a possible sexual assault reported by Sabrina Doe on Dec. 18, 2017. Sabrina Doe, according to the court transcript, told the detective that she thought she had been sexually assaulted after drinking the night before.
Sabrina Doe, according to the detective's statement in court, said she and a friend, Shannon Doe, had multiple drinks at home on Dec. 17, 2017, before heading out to SLO Brew. There, the women allegedly met a group of men who bought Sabrina Doe a drink. Shannon Doe, who was older than 21 in December 2017, was a SLO Brew employee at the time, the detective confirmed. Although she had worked a shift at the bar earlier that day, she was off-duty when she and Sabrina Doe went out later that night.
Hamish Marshall, a co-owner of SLO Brew, initially said in a phone interview with New Times that the suspension did not involve a SLO Brew employee, but in a subsequent interview he said that an off-duty employee was caught on camera handing an underage individual a drink. Everyone involved was fired immediately, Marshall said.
He said that SLO Brew will be taking precautions to ensure situations like this don't happen in the future at SLO Brew Rock and SLO Brew's rebranded and remodeled downtown location, The Carrisa, which has been in the works for about a year and is slated for a soft opening the weekend of Sept. 14.
Marshall said he's not "privy" to what initiated the Alcoholic Beverage Control investigation into SLO Brew or the sexual assault claims against Alarcon-Nunez.
According to the court transcript from the preliminary hearing in the Alarcon-Nunez case, after Shannon Doe and Sabrina Doe shared a beer at SLO Brew, they decided to take an Uber home just before 10 p.m. Both women told detectives they were very intoxicated at this point, and Sabrina Doe reportedly remembers waiting for the Uber and nothing else until the next morning, when she woke up without underwear on, bruises on her thighs, and her phone missing.
At the hearing, a SLO Police Department detective said that investigators found and contacted the Uber driver who drove Sabrina Doe and Shannon Doe home that night. The driver said the women were clearly intoxicated and that when he dropped them off, he had to help Sabrina Doe up to the apartment. As he was helping her, another man claiming to also be an Uber driver—who detectives say the first driver later hesitantly identified as Alarcon-Nunez in a lineup—arrived and said he could help.
The first Uber driver told investigators that the other man helped the girls into their apartment and went inside with them. The first driver was worried and waited outside for about 10 minutes before he left. He never saw the other man leave the apartment, according to court documents.
After Sabrina Doe and Shannon Doe interviewed with police in December 2017, a man allegedly reached out to Sabrina Doe on Facebook to ask about that night. Detectives claim they were able to link that Facebook page with Alarcon-Nunez, and when police searched Alarcon-Nunez's home, they allegedly found electronics that had been reported stolen by various women on the Central Coast. Police also say they recovered videos of "Sabrina intoxicated laying on a couch on her side" without pants or underwear on, of Shannon Doe and a man engaged in sexual activity, and other videos and photos of a nude woman who appeared to be unconscious.
Alarcon-Nunez pleaded not guilty to all charges and is currently booked in SLO County jail. A pre-trial conference in the case is scheduled for Sept. 30. Δ