A celebrated former bartender at the Sazerac Bar is accused of raping a woman he met there in April, a month after he stopped working at the popular Roosevelt Hotel bar and a few years after he was acquitted of sexual battery but convicted of a lesser charge in another case.
Police booked Matthew Steinvorth, 33, on a count of second-degree rape on May 28, more than a month after a woman came forward to authorities with her allegations against him.
Steinvorth, a resident of the Bayou St. John neighborhood, remained in jail Friday in lieu of $250,000 bail. His attorney declined to comment on the case.
The woman told investigators, according to a warrant signed by New Orleans Police Department Sex Crimes Unit Detective Anya Coleman, that she went to the Sazerac Bar on the night of April 18 after attending a concert and met a man with “bright blue eyes” and curly hair.
As her friends left the bar, the woman said, she told them she would take an Uber home and continued talking with the man.
The woman said that when her new companion offered to buy her a drink, she ordered a Sazerac. As the bartender put together the legendary drink, according to the warrant, the man commented on how “awesome and wonderful of a mixologist” the bartender was.
The woman told investigators that the last thing she remembered was complimenting the bartender as well.
She said she “then was awakened by the male who purchased her drink straddling her” and repeatedly penetrating her.
The woman said she was shocked and attempted to pull away, but the man grabbed her neck and continued until he ejaculated onto her stomach and lower pelvic area. The woman said she felt “numb” and “as if she was having an out-of-body experience.”
Dehydrated and thirsty, the woman said, she realized she was inside someone’s home as she passed family photos and kids’ toys on her way to a kitchen for a glass of water. She said she also spotted a “broken plate with a white powdery substance on it.”
The woman said she collected her clothes and made the “silent” man drop her off at her home about 4:15 a.m. April 19 but not before he briefly grabbed her iPhone, according to the warrant.
The woman told police that she later concluded the man took the phone to delete his contact number but that he failed to delete her call logs.
The woman said she felt “wired” after the encounter and “believed something was slipped into her drink by the suspect.”
That afternoon, police said, the woman went to the University Medical Center for a sexual assault examination, although the warrant does not state whether any DNA from the man was collected or analyzed.
The woman did not file a police report, according to the warrant, until going to the offices of the nonprofit Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response group two days later.
Police said they identified Steinvorth as a suspect in the case from a phone number left on the woman’s phone.
Detective Coleman said she suspected the man was an employee of the Roosevelt “due to his familiarity with the staff.”
A booking photo on file for Steinvorth from his 2011 arrest on an attempted rape count appeared to match surveillance video from inside the bar the night of April 18, according to police.
The woman identified a photo of Steinvorth as her assailant from a six-person lineup administered by a different detective, Coleman said. Although the woman told police that her assailant had blue eyes, an arrest register indicates that Steinvorth’s eyes are green.
Steinvorth, who, according to a social media profile, worked at the Sazerac Bar between April 2013 and March 2016, was named one of the city’s “most imaginative bartenders” in a 2015 contest.
In February, he was quoted on a New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau website as calling himself “the face of the Sazerac Bar.” In March, a photograph of him accompanied a New York Times article about the well-known watering hole.
Steinvorth also has another history. In 2011, he was charged with sexual battery after a woman said he tried to force himself on her on a night shortly before Mardi Gras. In March 2012, an Orleans Parish jury acquitted him of sexual battery but found him guilty of simple battery.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the victim in that case said she believes a jury acquitted Steinvorth of the sexual battery charge because of a lack of physical evidence. The woman said she went through the ordeal of a trial because she was convinced that “this wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.”
“He’s a perpetrator,” she said. “Smug, entitled and aggressive.”
In a March 2012 court filing made before Steinvorth’s sentencing, defense attorney Stephen Hebert argued to the contrary. He claimed that Steinvorth’s actions caused the woman no physical harm and were “the result of circumstances that are extremely unlikely to recur.”
Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter gave Steinvorth a six-month suspended sentence and 50 hours of community service in April 2012, according to court records.
He was required to report to Orleans Parish Prison on weekends for the duration of that period.
The woman said she was shocked to hear that Steinvorth found employment at the famed Sazerac Bar for several years despite his conviction in her case.
A Roosevelt Hotel spokeswoman confirmed that Steinvorth had been employed there but did not immediately comment on the bar’s background screening process.
“I can’t believe that guy was working in a bar,” the woman said. “That makes me angry. That’s like a lion just waiting to prey.”
The woman said she also wanted to offer encouragement to the woman who came forward to accuse Steinvorth this time.
“It’s not your fault. Stay strong,” the woman said. “He has to be convicted. This has to stick.”