Sociables loses liquor license amid allegations
By Scott Bellile
The owner of a New London bar has been charged with second-degree sexual assault, false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery.
Michael B. Fahser, 33, of Fremont, had an initial appearance in Winnebago County Circuit Court on Thursday, April 14. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on April 25.
Fahser owns Sociables, 309 S. Pearl St.
Two nights prior to his court appearance, New London’s city council voted Tuesday, April 12, not to grant a license to Sociables One LLC hours before Fahser’s temporary liquor license expired Wednesday, April 13.
New London Police Chief Jeff Schlueter recommended to the council it not grant Sociables a Combination Class B license due to Fahser’s past behavior and “intelligence” of an incident New London Police Department had at the time of the council meeting. Schlueter was not prepared to specify what the incident was, but the council took his word and denied Fahser the liquor license.
According to the criminal complaint:
On Saturday, April 9, after 3 a.m., a Winnebago County sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to the area of Fahser’s home in the town of Wolf River.
The caller stated she had a seizure, slipped on ice and didn’t know where she was. She said she was alone and provided her first name, then began whispering to tell the deputy that men were there and she was terrified.
A friend of Fahser’s got on the phone to tell the deputy they were at Fahser’s house and the three would meet deputies at the Citgo station in Fremont.
At the gas station, sheriff’s deputies picked up the woman, who appeared to mouth “help me” from Fahser’s friend’s vehicle. Upon exiting the vehicle she “began to cry hysterically.” She grabbed onto a deputy, begging him not to let her return to them because she was raped.
The woman said Fahser had offered to drive her home from Sociables because her brother and fiancée had left the bar earlier. A female friend had been with her but got a ride home from a DJ when Fahser said there wasn’t enough room in his truck for both women.
She said Fahser at one point had been taking shots with workers in a back room of the bar.
The woman told deputies Fahser drove past her destination and wouldn’t let her out the truck. She said Fahser eventually pulled over, undressed her and raped her in the truck.
She said upon arrival to Fahser’s house, he dragged her out of his truck by her ankles. She hit her head along the way.
Once inside, Fahser allegedly dragged her away from the back door when she attempted to escape. He forced her to have sex with him, she told deputies.
Afterward she said she ran from the house screaming and Fahser’s mother came outside. The woman said Fahser ran up to his mother and told her, “Mom, I … up. I really need your help.”
Deputies collected written statements from Fahser and his friend. Fahser said he met the woman at Sociables and she flirted with him and kissed him in the bar.
He said he left the bar with his brother, not her, and it was his friend who drove her home to Fremont. Fahser said she was intoxicated and denied having sexual contact with her.
His friend initially said he drove her to Fremont without engaging in any sexual contact along the way and brought her to Fahser’s house when he couldn’t find her residence.
Police say the friend later admitted to lying in an attempt to cover for Fahser. He said Fahser took the woman home and he was unaware of what happened at Fahser’s house prior to his arrival.
A sexual assault nurse examiner concluded the woman had been assaulted.
Sociables closed at midnight Wednesday, April 13, due to its temporary liquor license expiring. Fahser had recently applied for a Combination Class B liquor license because his ex-wife had the license in her name back when they were working together.
Schlueter told the council at the April 12 meeting, “Based on Michael’s character, record, reputation, the safety and welfare of the community, I would recommend to you that the council not approve this license at this time.”
With little discussion beyond Schlueter’s statement, the motion to issue Fahser a Combination “Class B” liquor license failed 0-9.
Later during the meeting, New London City Attorney Earl Luaders asked Schlueter for further explanation. Luaders said the city needs a solid reason for the license denial in the event Fahser were to appeal the denial in circuit court. He said generally if a municipality has “a rational basis for denial,” the court doesn’t intervene.
Schlueter didn’t mention the allegations against Fahser but pointed to a February incident in which the bar allowed a customer to hire an exotic dancer, which he said violated a city ordinance. He also cited numerous police calls to the bar over time and reiterated the reasons he mentioned earlier.
“Just based on Mike’s demeanor when we’ve dealt with him in the past in all the contacts, it’s what my recommendation is based upon,” Schlueter said. “It’s continually evaluated as time goes on to keep recommending to you what I feel is best for our community. If things change in the future, if he does reapply, then we’ll bring those to your attention at that time.”
On April 5, prior to the alleged rape, the finance and personnel committee meeting unanimously approved a motion to recommend to city council the renewal of Fahser’s liquor license.
If Fahser doesn’t reapply for a license or appeal the council’s decision, the options for Sociables at this point are to not serve alcohol, find a different person to apply for a liquor license or shut down.
The Press Star inquired at city hall and was told a family member of Fahser has picked up a liquor license application.