The allegations surfaced on Saturday after a young woman named Michaela Lillie opened up about her experience at the Rose Room on Facebook.
Lillie said she visited the establishment, located under its sister restaurant, 220 Merrill, on March 13 to celebrate her birthday with her friends.
“After about 2 drinks in, a few of us began to lose feeling in our arms and legs, could not speak without slurring and soon after blacked out completely,” Lillie wrote. “It took about 48 hours for 2 of my friends to feel somewhat normal again and some are still feeling off a week later.”
Following the visit, Lillie and her friends decided to look at reviews of the bar, where they read multiple accounts from other female patrons regarding similar experiences, which have been shared in the post.
In addition to the reviews, other patrons of the Rose Room recounted their own experiences, which mirror Lillie’s, in the comment section of her post. As of Wednesday afternoon, the post was shared more than 3,000 times with over 800 comments.
Lillie noted that the Birmingham police were contacted about the incident, but that she and her friends were told there was “nothing they could do about it.”
The Birmingham Police Department said in a statement on its Facebook page Monday that it was aware of “stories circulating on various forms of social media today that female patrons have been drugged while drinking at a restaurant in the City.”
The department noted that it “takes all criminal activity seriously” and urged anyone who feels that they have been a victim of a crime to come forward and report any incidents.
“We take pride in our safe and secure downtown dining and shopping experience and will do everything in our power to ensure you and your family are safe while visiting Birmingham,” police added.
In addition, Lillie said a message was sent to the owner of the Rose Room regarding the incident, but that the owner blocked the person who messaged him after reading it.
The Rose Room issued its own statement on Monday saying that it had “not received any direct reports of anything like this ever happening” and that it takes the claims “very seriously.”
“There is nothing more important to us than the health and safety of our guests, and we condemn all forms of sexual harassment and assault,” the Rose Room said.
Management added that they interviewed all of the employees working at the bar on March 13 and that the Rose Room has “no indication that the claims being repeated through social media are true.”
They also explained that they take precautions every night to ensure what was alleged in the social media posts does not happen, including staff opening bottles at each table, in front of guests. Bartenders, servers, managers and security are also trained to “ensure that patrons showing signs of intoxication are not served and are able to get safely home.”
“As a small, minority-owned business in a competitive business community, our reputation is everything to us,” the Rose Room added. “We will take all actions necessary to respond, and we have already reached out to the person who posted the original message, but we have not yet received a response.”
Lillie urged people to avoid the Rose Room and to share her post.
“Obviously this is the only thing that works anymore since nothing is being done about this place,” Lillie warned. “Also keep writing reviews on any platform that you can!! We need to hold this place accountable for its actions.”
State Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, said in a statement on Tuesday that her phones have been ringing off the hook for the past 24 hours from consituents regarding the allegations, which she called “incredibly disturbing” and “often downright terrifying.”
“I want to acknowledge the bravery of the women who have shared their stories. Often when women come forward about dangerous incidents that occur when they were out drinking, they’re made to feel ashamed or that they were “asking for it,” she said. “Let me be very clear: just because a woman is enjoying an evening out or having a drink is not an invitation to drug her.”
Manoogian said she is working to ensure that those investigating have every resource possible in order “understand the scale” and respond accordingly.
“I will continue to do all that I can to make certain that anyone who lives in or visits our district is safe,” she added.
Individuals who would like to report an incident to the Birmingham Police Department can do so at 248-530-1889.