The bar manager of a popular restaurant and speakeasy in Boston's Leather District has been fired following allegations of sexual abuse and harassment, according to the owner.
Chris Campbell, the owner-manager of Troquet on South restaurant and nearby OFFSUIT speakeasy, said Matt Marini, 31, was dismissed Tuesday evening after an investigation by outside lawyers.
“It was the right thing to do,” Campbell told GBH News. “We’ve always had a policy of zero tolerance, and obviously that was abused.”
In the days leading up to Marini’s termination, Campbell said he had brought in employment lawyers to interview the staff.
“I was sick to my stomach,” the owner said, adding he had no prior knowledge of the allegations. “I was shaking.”
The alleged incidents, which occurred since Marini began working at OFFSUIT last year, include attempting sexual acts with non-consenting inebriated women, unwanted touching and groping and aggressive harassment of patrons. The allegations line up with a widespread pattern in the restaurant industry, where 90% of women say they've experienced sexual harassment, according to ROC United, a restaurant workers’ rights nonprofit.
Marini did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and Campbell said he has also been unable to reach his former bar manager. “I mean, if he were to come forward and talk to us, then maybe we would talk,” Campbell said. “But I think it's the most damning part of it.”
The fired bar manager exercised considerable control over who got into OFFSUIT, an intimate and popular speakeasy. Down an alleyway behind Troquet restaurant, an otherwise unmarked black door displayed a small sticker that reads “FOR SERVICE, CALL” with a number to summon a handful of employees, which had included Marini.
He would emerge to see a long line of people, deciding whether to usher them into the 20-seat cocktail bar or put their names on a waiting list that often lasted for hours. According to Troquet management and patrons, Marini, who was hired when OFFSUIT opened last November, abused his role as the gatekeeper of the bar, marketed to the young, hip and in-the-know, to perpetuate a dynamic of abuse.
His termination followed a series of anonymous allegations posted Monday on Instagram by Chase Brooks, a bartender at the Toro restaurant in the South End. “Matt Marini uses his position of power running one of Boston’s ‘hottest’ new cocktail bars to attract and target young women,” Brooks wrote in the caption of the post. “He showers his targets in free booze, doing everything he can to make them feel special.”
Michelle Shafer, 29, who had been a regular patron at OFFSUIT, said she helped Brooks collect testimonies to publish on his Instagram account.
“We didn’t have to do too much digging, stories kept coming. We realized this is a pattern, not just one isolated incident,” Shafer said. “We knew he had creepy behaviors in the past, but I didn’t know how serious they were until I experienced it.”
Shafer said that she was drinking at the bar in July when Marini came up to her and repeatedly groped her leg, refusing to stop after she asked.
“He was grabbing my thigh pretty aggressively enough that it left bruises and it really hurt,” Shafer told GBH News. “He took a picture of his hand on my bare upper thigh, which was disgusting. When my friends came over and interjected and said, ‘That’s enough,’ he just flew off the handle, flailing his arms and telling my friend to ‘get the f*** out of my bar.’”
Marini held sway over the small space as one of roughly three employees working there, according to Shafer.
“It’s a cool concept and it makes you feel really special to be there, but it also creates a power dynamic that could really easily be exploited. I think that’s exactly what happened,” she said. “Matt was the gatekeeper to this bar, you can’t go without Matt or one of the other bartenders saving a spot for you, letting you come in. It was like, ‘Oh, I’m special because they let me come here.’”
Another patron, who asked GBH News not to reveal her identity to protect her privacy, said that Marini would touch women’s legs and backs without their consent, sending free drinks to “groom” them.
“He would become passive aggressive when I turned down more drinks and be visibly aggravated and then send us the bill as if like, ‘OK, if you're not going to be wasted? Then get the f*** out of my bar,’” she said. “Then, on other occasions, he would be excited when I was tipsy and he would send more to keep me there. I could tell that that’s what he wanted.”
The woman says Marini would drunkenly FaceTime her and send texts demanding to come over to her place. In a series of text messages reviewed by GBH News, the woman repeatedly refused Marini’s requests, at which point she said he called her over FaceTime, telling her once again that he was coming over.
“He knew my address, and that would be his go-to, this weird threat,” she said.
Marini, who founded a hospitality events group and previously worked as a bar manager of a popular restaurant in a local hotel, used his status and his power over admission at OFFSUIT to aggressively pursue women outside of the bar as well, another patron told GBH News. Marini would allegedly meet women who came to OFFSUIT and pursue them aggressively outside of the venue, with seemingly innocuous and friendly invitations that later turned into demands to become inebriated and accept his unwanted sexual advances.
After a night out with him this summer, one woman found herself cornered by Marini.
“He became very insistent that he was coming home with me, very, very insistent,” the woman said. “I said no, you’ve already gone too far, you’re not coming home with me, but he kept insisting. We were out in public, and I dodged a corner and left him out on the street because I was scared, and just started sobbing. You tell someone to stop, you’re making me uncomfortable — it’s just violating.”
On a night out with Marini in March 2020, another woman says he continued to pressure her to drink more, while bragging about being the “owner of the bar he worked at” and asking repeatedly, “Why don’t you drink more? I’m paying.”
The woman says, later that night, Marini began touching her inner thighs, “like really close to my genital area, rubbing my back under my sweater, up towards where my bra straps were.”
“I hadn’t given consent,” the woman continued, “I even went so far as to pick his hand up off my leg and put it back, but it just kept happening.”
On the street outside, the woman said Marini unzipped her winter jacket and continued to rub her body. The woman said Marini kissed her. “He asked me if he could and I said no, and he did it anyway,” she said. “After that, I was visibly upset, I started yelling.”
The woman said Marini continued to text her until she blocked his number.
The decision to fire Marini, Campbell said, was “pretty cut and dry,” and a forum of employees generally agreed that it was the only way to move forward and “solve this awful problem.”
Though Troquet on South will remain open, Campbell said “OFFSUIT is in limbo. We haven’t made any decisions on what to do. We’re still trying to get through this part of it first. But I don’t think it’s right to open it up right away.”