After cutting ties with 3 restaurants, Sheldon will remain a partner in the renovation of the Freestone Hotel

A prominent Sonoma County restaurateur who cut ties with three of his businesses after allegations of sexual harassment will not be required to walk away from a fourth.

Lowell Sheldon has been accused by at least six women of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments in a series of incidents dating back six years.

He was removed this year from ownership of three Sebastopol restaurants: Fern Bar, Handline and Khom Loi.

The allegations against him were first reported in September by the San Francisco Chronicle.

But Sheldon, who has not been charged with any crime, will remain as a partner at the Freestone Hotel, seven miles west of Sevastopol, the Chronicle reported on Tuesday.

This 148-year-old building is currently being renovated and is expected to reopen in 2023.

In a statement emailed to his “community” on Tuesday, Sheldon wrote “I messed up in a very real way” and that “my mistakes have spread and caused pain in the community.”

Referring to the “proper work standards” training sessions he has attended over the past two years, he expressed a desire “to better understand my impact as I move around the world”.

Jeffrey Berlin, one of the partners in the Freestone Hotel project, feels that Sheldon is “genuinely distraught” about the way he has hurt people, “and is legitimately trying to address these things on his own.

“If I didn’t see something very sincere and genuine about him in his response to what happened, I wouldn’t be supporting him,” Berlin told The Press Democrat on Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t stay in business with anyone who I thought would be a threat or a danger to people,” Berlin said.

Sheldon acknowledged that his “relationships at three former restaurants” had “collapsed, because of the way I was.

“I’ve been in therapy for several years and will be for several more years,” he told The Press Democrat on Wednesday. “I plan to continue to learn, to grow.”

Sheldon added that he hopes “to show people that I’ve grown up and that I’m ready to be that community member, and that they feel good about the company that I’m a part of.”

Leah Engel, a former Sheldon employee who brought charges against him, told the Chronicle that she found the decision to include Sheldon in the Freestone Hotel project “mind-boggling.”

Engel did not respond to a text seeking comment on Wednesday. Jesse Hom-Dawson, a former communications manager for Sheldon’s restaurants who he once told to ‘sit on dad’s lap’, told the Chronicle that she intends to fight the demands of permit and liquor license from the Freestone hotel. She declined an emailed request for comment to a Press Democrat reporter.

Sheldon will not be involved in the daily operations of the Freestone Hotel. “That was the plan from the start,” said Berlin, who will be the facility’s chief executive.

The project’s third partner, Noah Churma, will provide financial support, as will Sheldon, who is also overseeing the hotel’s design. Sheldon will then help Berlin set up the company, which Berlin will run.

In addition to reopening the hotel, “we would also like to run a wine shop, and potentially a tavern on the grounds,” Berlin said. “I don’t know if we’re looking to run a full-fledged restaurant. It will be much more relaxed.

For now, Berlin lives in the Freestone. If someone wants to talk to him, “it’s not like he has to meet someone in another city. I am here ready, willing and able to communicate with people.

In fact, he says, correcting himself in mid-reflection, “it would be less about communicating than about listening.”

You can contact editor Austin Murphy at [email protected] or on Twitter @ausmurph88.

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