In the past week, Rain Cafe & Lounge owner Allen Mairs says he’s experienced his first “incident of mass social media hysteria,” and he admits he didn’t know how to handle it – and still doesn’t.
A patron of the bar at 518 E. Douglas in Old Town says a man drugged the drinks she and some friends had on Thursday night. The woman filed an incident report with the Wichita Police Department on Tuesday.
As the police are investigating, others are taking to Facebook to share their thoughts – on the alleged incident, the bar and Mairs.
“We’ve had such a social media storm on it,” Mairs says.
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Before that happened, he says, he looked at video of the incident and then turned it over to police before the report was filed.
Although he couldn’t see anything on the video, Mairs says he knows that something happened.
“We sent them word that we were concerned,” he says of trying to contact the women through a mutual friend. He says when no one responded, he didn’t try further. “We were being delicate with it.”
That’s when he says he started seeing calls for people to boycott his business because of how employees handled the situation. Mairs then responded online.
“I got in a defensive mode and was like, ‘Whoa, this is not what happened,’ ” Mairs says. “We were only trying to help.”
He says he had tried to walk a line of not accusing the man who brought the women drinks, but he says that made things worse.
Mairs says he talked to sexual assault counselors who told him his remarks could be seen as blaming the victims.
“It looks like it’s all about your defense and not about what happened … to someone.”
He then edited his initial post.
“We weren’t trying to bash anybody ever,” Mairs says. “Most of the social media backlash is … just all wrong.”
He says he thinks people have good intentions but aren’t pausing to learn the facts.
“It’s almost like you’re in the witch hunt days of Salem,” he says. “The internet is too instant. … You can be part of a multilayer lynch mob by a single click.”
Rain has lots of supporters, Mairs says.
“All of our client base is aware that this is not a representation of anything we’re about.”
Still, what happened is yet another reason Mairs would like to get out of the business.
“It’s mentally straining to try to do the right thing and then get accused of doing something horrible.”
He says he’s been wanting someone else to take over the bar for a few years now.
“I don’t drink. I’m home every night. I’m not here. … This isn’t a great fit.”
He adds, “It’s a younger person’s game.”
However, Mairs says he’s picky about who he’ll allow to take over.
“I’m proud of how we operate and like to keep a good standard. … I want to sell to a responsible party.”