Police investigate local bar after social media outcry

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published April 5, 2021

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BIRMINGHAM — At least four investigations are in progress now, according to police, after a social media post made waves last month accusing the Rose Room bar of drugging female patrons on multiple occasions.

Concerns arose March 13, when a local woman posted to her Facebook account that she and some friends had gone to the Rose Room, located beneath 220 restaurant, at 220 E. Merrill St., downtown. She said she and her guests began to feel woozy and reportedly lost feeling in their limbs after a couple of drinks.

“After about two 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,” the post reads. “It took about 48 hours for two of my friends to feel somewhat normal again and some are still feeling off a week later.”

The poster said she noticed similar stories were reported in the bar’s online reviews. She also said that Birmingham police were contacted, but she said they told her there was nothing they could do about it. She’s since retracted that statement on her Facebook page.

“I take great pride in how we protect the people of Birmingham and the people who come to Birmingham,” said Birmingham Police Chief Mark Clemence. “We wouldn’t disregard a complaint from anyone. We just don’t do that.”

Clemence said the misunderstanding came about when the woman’s boyfriend called police the day after the alleged incident, and he was told the subjects themselves should come to the station to make a report.

Since then, however, police released a statement that said anyone with information about that particular evening at the Rose Room or similar incidents that have taken place in the past should report it to police.

The response was three more reports, dating back to 2019. As of now, none of them reported an assault or other kind of harassment, but they did report suspicious circumstances and possible drugging.

“I can’t comment on what we’re going to be doing as far as the investigation. These are obviously very difficult cases, though, because they happened in the past, sometimes two years ago,” Clemence said. “There’s no toxicology reports, witnesses, security footage. We’ll basically be looking for patterning between the incidents.”

Meanwhile, the Rose Room responded to the allegations with a prepared statement, explaining they’re conducting their own internal investigation and aiding the police however they can. Clemence confirmed that the bar is being cooperative with detectives.

“Although we have not received any direct reports of anything like this ever happening at the Rose Room, we take these 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 in its statement. “We have already interviewed all of our employees that were working on that date, and we have no indication that the claims being repeated through social media are true.”

The Rose Room goes on to say that staff takes precautions each night to ensure patrons’ safety, including opening bottles in front of guests at their table and being careful not to over-serve.

“As a small, minority-owned business in a competitive business community, our reputation is everything to us. 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,” they said.

The woman who originally posted on social media about her experience March 13 did not respond to requests for comment before press time.

Others who wish to report possible crimes to Birmingham police are asked to call (248) 530-1889.

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