What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Brewery Bhavana beverage director 'let go' from company

Posted June 10, 2020 4:57 p.m. EDT
Updated June 10, 2020 6:03 p.m. EDT

— The longtime beverage director at two award-winning Raleigh restaurants has been “let go” from the company, a spokeswoman for the restaurant said Wednesday.

Jordan Hester had been with Bida Manda since 2012 and then its sister restaurant Brewery Bhavana when it opened in 2017.

Hester was accused of sexual misconduct in recent days, as current and former employees went public via social media.

Fourteen former and current staff members at both restaurants described to WRAL News an environment that involved objectifying of male and female employees, allegations of sexual assault and a culture of silence.

Staff members said it was common for co-owner Vansana Nolintha to engage in inappropriate relationships with younger male employees. Nolintha stepped away from a leadership role on Tuesday following those accusations.

Vanvisa Nolintha and Patrick Woodson, co-owners of Brewery Bhavana, said in a statement Tuesday that the company would be bringing in an independent third party to investigate allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct.

Patricia Heath, who also worked at Bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana, said Hester would often speak inappropriately about her appearance to other staff members and management while she was nearby.

“Commenting on my appearance, my movements, and my attire. I would hear these comments, ignore them, and maintain my composure to remain professional and because I didn’t feel secure and empowered by other management to confront him,” Heath said. “He boasted to me innumerable times of his past conquests with other employees, his subordinates. He would consistently sexualize other women that worked there. Calling attention to their bodies.”

Heath said she tried to confront Hester “nicely” about the extra work he was requiring of her as opposed to her male colleagues, but Hester would shut down.

“Any negative feedback and room for improvement I offered was met with hostility and sometimes erratic actions on his part,” Heath said.

Heath said that Hester also told her about an affair he had with a co-worker.

​"He (Jordan Hester) related to me of an affair he had with a coworker who I believe didn’t have the ability to consent and I told him that I didn’t want to hear about that. I told him to his face I didn’t believe she could consent in her state. He continued to relate details about that sexual relationship after I made clear I objected to its existence and objected to hearing about it. To this day I can’t think of that 'relationship' without crying," Heath said.

In an interview with WRAL, Nicole Bivins detailed inappropriate behavior by Hester, who was her boss at the time.

Bivins, who was a member of the opening bar staff at Bida Manda in 2012, told WRAL that she considered Hester a mentor and close friend for years before he allegedly assaulted her.

"I can recall so many evenings bartending alongside Jordan and he would direct the conversation towards the appearance of an extremely young hostess’ body, the things he would like to do to them, or any number of other inappropriate topics. I have long wished I said something to him about it, or to these girls he would ultimately pursue," Bivins said.

"On the first occasion I was acutely aware he had crossed a line, he demanded I show him my breasts while attending Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. It was a command, like any other he’d give behind the bar. And he was my boss, and my friend - or so I thought," Bivins said, noting that she complied with his request.

Bivins said Hester assaulted her a year later while hanging out with friends at his apartment.

"They went to sleep, Jordan offered me his bed. He then got into his bed and pressed his body up against me, started grinding and grabbing my breasts. Like an animal of prey I froze, stunned and helpless. In the following days I worked up the courage to text him telling him how uncomfortable it made me. He told me that I could get him fired if I wanted to, but guilted me about not being able to care for his child."

Hester soon started behaving in a hostile way toward her.

"He walked into the restaurant on many occasions angry, frequently barked at me directly in front of customers, or refused to speak to me at all," Bivins said. "The owners and other managers elected to not schedule us together, rather than address his behavior - which they admitted was unwarranted, but said 'he’s not going anywhere.'"

After five years of working there, Bivins left Bida Manda.

"Due to the lack of support I received from management, and in fact the rather harsh treatment I endured for speaking up about anything I was edged out of the restaurant entirely," Bivins said.

Julia Swinn, who worked with Bivins and Hester at Bida Manda, said she was aware of Hester’s inappropriate behavior at the cocktail event in New Orleans and the alleged sexual assault at his apartment. Swinn said that while she did not know the exact details of the alleged assault, Bivins told her that something had happened. Swinn said Hester had spoken inappropriately to her as well.

WRAL has reached out to Jordan Hester for comment but has not heard back.

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