JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Former employees of Bebettes coffeehouse in Johnson City are speaking out after former manager Jacob Spiess was arrested for alleged sexual battery involving an employee.
The coffeehouse is set to open next week, but former employees said they don’t plan on ever going back.
“Us quitting Bebettes has led to him getting fired and getting arrested,” former assistant manager Hannah Robertson said.
Robertson and others describe their former workplace as a good atmosphere, but after a series of events that happened on Jan. 25, every employee turned in resignation letters. Robertson said six people were employed there.
Spiess was arrested after an investigation on Feb. 14 on sexual battery charges, according to the Johnson City Police Department and documents filed in Washington County General Sessions Court.
Earlier on Jan. 25, former employee Jada LaVoie spoke with the victim, a fellow coworker and friend, after she left her shift crying.
“Seeing her like that scared me,” LaVoie said. “I was like something really bad had to have happened.”
It was later that evening when the victim shared what she said happened and contacted the police. The same night, staff decided to resign.
In court documents, the victim said her manager, Jacob Spiess was giving her a back massage. She called it unwanted and said it progressed to other inappropriate touching.
“He’s always been a very like jokey, laughy person,” Robertson said. “I was like close with his family. This was like shocking, but we believe her.”
Court documents said when Speiss was questioned by police, he said he only hugged the victim and also described their past as “flirtatious.”
Former employees Robertson, LaVoie and Carson Morgan said that’s not what they’ve observed.
“It was a gross mischaracterization to say that the two of them had flirted in the past,” Morgan said. “From my perspective, I had never seen that.”
“She’s like just turned 19,” Robertson said. “She’s like a kid, very much like new to the world, and her having to deal with this like so early really sucks.”
In a statement earlier this week, the owner shared with News Channel 11 that “Bebettes is a female-owned company and does not tolerate any type of harassment or inappropriate conduct.”
Former staff said they quit because they were under the impression Spiess was not a fireable employee.
“We know that he invested a lot of money,” Robertson said. “We felt that we were going to have to answer to him.”
Former employees said though they’ve been offered their jobs back, they are ready to turn over a new leaf. LaVoie said she didn’t even have to think about her decision to step away.
“Honestly, it was devastating,” LaVoie said. “But I 100% stood in solidarity with the victim and 100% believed her.”
Spiess is set to appear in court on March 29.
Signs posted on the coffeehouse said it is set to reopen on Tuesday.