The story about local celebrity chef Michael Chiarello (Coqueta, Bottega) getting arrested early Wednesday morning for driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance has taken on an interesting new twist, and gained a statement from the chef's reps. Though it's been nearly eight months since we first learned that Chiarello and his restaurant group were under fire in a sexual harassment lawsuit as well as a wage-related lawsuit by the same former servers at Coqueta it turns out that a settlement was just reached in the harassment suit earlier this week, and maybe there's a connection with Chiarello's alleged night of debauchery?
Eater points out the "interesting" timing of his arrest, reporting that a settlement for an undisclosed sum was reached in the lawsuit on October 31, just about a day before Chiarello would be pulled over near his Yountville restaurant Bottega, presumably after a late night there or someplace nearby, in the wee hours of November 2.
Also, Chiarello's PR reps put out the following terse statement late Thursday:
Michael Chiarello disputes the misdemeanor charges filed against him. Although he is embarrassed and apologizes to his family, friends and business colleagues about this occurrence, he intends to vigorously challenge the misdemeanor charges filed against him.
The Napa-based chef was released on $5,000 bail Wednesday morning, and chances are we will not hear a whole lot more on this case and it sounds like he avoided a felony DUI charge, which tends only to be given in California when a person has multiple DUIs on their record.
The harassment lawsuit in question was announced in March and was brought by two former female servers who alleged that Chiarello, along with Coqueta chef de cuisine Dominick Maietta and general manager Mirko Galliani, had engaged in "a pattern and practice of inappropriate sexual comments, touching and other sex-related abuse." Chiarello previously denied the claims, saying through a spokesperson that they "[fly] in the face of who Mr. Chiarello is and how he has lived his life."
Resolution in the second, labor-related lawsuit will have to wait, however, and Eater reports that a trial date for that has been set for March.