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A local tavern owner has responded to claims from several women that they were drugged and sexually assaulted while visiting his establishment.

Jacob Banas, the owner of the August Weber Haus in Cedarburg, filed a defamation suit earlier this month against the women.

While theĀ investigation has been largely inactive since first brought to light in 2014, a recent petition to revoke the restaurant's liquor license has sparked public outcry and lawsuits on both sides.

As of this week, the petition on Change.org has almost 700 signatures.

Banas was never charged during that initial investigation and is now suing to clear his name, claiming that the women who have come forward are lying based on "town gossip."

Kristin Burkart, a local real estate agent, spoke to the Cedarburg Common Council on Monday, Nov. 28, on behalf of the Committee for a Safe Cedarburg, the group responsible for the petition.

In regards to an interview he gave to a Milwaukee television station last week, Burkart said, "Banas has obviously been very outspoken about his stance on the matter, whether that be on television or on social media. He wants his name to be cleared. Those who have signed the petition want his license revoked based on his moral character."

A counterclaim from one of the accusing women said Banas harassed the defendant on Facebook. Several women with accusations against Banas also spoke to on television last week, but opted to preserve their anonymity out of fear of a response from Banas.

Patrick Manner, owner of Crossfit Unbroken, has been one of the more vocal members of the community with regards to Banas.

Manner spoke to the Common Council on Oct. 31 about the petition. He believes that the August Weber Haus as a business reflects poorly on the community, citing the restaurant's limited hours as a waste of a coveted liquor license.

"Even now, the restaurant has advertising that it's open for business, and it's not," said Manner.

The August Weber Haus has had limited hours in recent years, and it is usually only open during festivals.

Manner sees the television interview as another reflection of Banas' character.

"The fact that he needs his lawyer there to comment speaks volumes about him," said Manner. "Between that and the way that he carries himself online, I think he's acting like a real bully."

While no charges have been pressed, the Cedarburg Police Department is open to information from anyone regarding the accusations against Banas.

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