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Former Saison Bar Director Responds to Lawsuit with ‘Subpeona Coladas’

“You have been served... a cocktail.”

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Anthony Keels/Joe Weaver Photo

After finding himself at the center of an intellectual property suit brought by his former employer, ex-Saison Bar Director Anthony Keels is responding to the allegations with tongue firmly in cheek.

To recap: the three-Michelin-starred restaurant and its legal team are currently suing Keels to the tune of $500,000 in damages, claiming he altered drink recipes, attempted to serve “a substandard substitute to customers” and ultimately stole trade secrets upon his departure. (The restaurant’s former director of hospitality Matthew Mako was also named in a similar suit back in May.) As Eater noted last month, intellectual property is a murky subject in the restaurant industry, and those issues only get murkier when applied to drinks that are constantly being adapted and reinvented based on classic recipes.

Keels, who now serves as Bar Director at Eight Tables, has retained legal counsel to fight the suit, but tells Eater he felt a need to represent himself in the court of public opinion — and do some fundraising to help cover his legal fees at the same time.

“I have to defend cocktail truth and justice,” Keels told Eater over the phone.

The result is a cheeky “Five Hundred Thousand Dollar Pop-up” taking place next month at Berkeley’s Acme Bar & Company. You can check the full menu below, but Keels has created a snappy “Subpeona Colada Milk Punch” based on a “200-year-old recipe.” And in-the-know drinkers might also recognize “A Cocktail That Probably Changes Colors” as an homage to his own color-changing creation that became a secret hit at an unnamed high-end restaurant in SoMa.

“It was never on the menu,” Keels explained of the gin & tonic variation, “but it was well-known.”

Rounding out the menu are a Vietnamese Meat Shake (a pho-like spin on Acme’s “Meat Shake” Bloody Mary) and a TBD beverage that is sure to be a “substandard alternative,” in response to the language in the suit. Keels, who also runs a pop-up collective called From the Codex, will be supported by a small group chef friends contributing small bites. While Keel is keeping the chef lineup a surprise for now, he assures us it’s a “world-class” group and many of the bites will be familiar to local eaters.

The Five Hundred Thousand Dollar Pop-up happens Sunday, November 5th at Acme Bar & Company (2115 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley). Everything will be a la carte and nothing will cost you nearly as much as $500,000.