Apr 12, 2024 - News

Ankeny Whiskey River employee says she was fired for calling 911

A photo of Taylor Schealler and a photo of Whiskey River Ankeny.

Taylor Schealler says she worked at Whiskey River in Ankeny for more than a year before she was fired. Photo: Courtesy of Schealler and the Polk County Assessor

A Whiskey River Ankeny employee was fired for calling 911 to report "a brawl" last year, she alleges in a wrongful termination lawsuit.

State of play: The Whiskey River chain has been the subject of multiple legal battles in recent years, including a lawsuit over a 2022 shooting at its now-closed Des Moines location.

Driving the news: Bartender Taylor Schealler called 911 around 1am on Nov. 18, 2023, to report a fight between patrons at the Ankeny restaurant.

  • She told dispatchers that someone used pepper spray in the building, according to the recording of the call obtained by Axios.

Zoom in: While talking with the dispatcher, another employee can be heard on the recording telling Schealler that she wasn't allowed to make the call — saying only the on-duty manager was allowed to do so.

  • "They can fire me. I'm not going to have people pepper-sprayed and not call 911," Schaeller responded.

Behind the scenes: Restaurant owner Joe Romare approached the bar after multiple people were treated for injuries and asked who called the police, according to the lawsuit.

  • Schealler acknowledged her role and Romare responded, "Never call the cops," she alleges in the lawsuit.
  • Later that day, Schealler discovered she was locked out of an electronic employee scheduling system and was told by a supervisor it was best they part ways, according to the lawsuit.

What they're saying: Schealler believed people were in danger and never thought she would lose her job for the call, she said in a statement to Axios.

  • The lawsuit names Romare, general manager Emily Berger and several associated businesses of the establishment.
  • Romare and his attorney, Adam Zenor, did not return Axios' requests for comment this week. Berger declined to comment.

Flashback: In the March 2022 shooting at the former Des Moines Whiskey River, a man was injured and is now suing the establishment, claiming it over-served the person who shot him.

  • The injured man instigated the fight that ended in gunfire, attorneys representing the bar previously told the Register. The bar denies wrongdoing, court records show.

Friction point: Romare closed the Ingersoll Avenue location a few weeks after the shooting, telling the DSM Register the city of Des Moines could not control violence.

  • Less than eight months after closing the DSM location, Romare sued the city of Ankeny, alleging police regularly parked near his business and harassed customers. His case was dismissed last year.
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