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Police investigating after sexual assault allegations against SLO County business owners surface

SLO police
Posted at 6:20 PM, Apr 06, 2022

Two San Luis Obispo County business owners are being accused of sexual assault by multiple women.

One week ago, a former San Luis Obispo resident posted on social media her story of sexual assault.

San Luis Obispo police confirm that several victims have since contacted the department and they're investigating.

A number of women have come forward accusing Kin Coffee owner Julian Contreras and Nate Abate, owner of Nate's Barbershop in Atascadero, of sexual assault.

Accusations erupted following Instagram posts by former San Luis Obispo resident Ash Riddell.

The 31-year-old says she was sexually assaulted by Abate and Contreras in August of 2012 but she felt more comfortable sharing her story once she left the state.

"I knew when I was moving away and I was going to be safe that I wanted to make the post," Riddell said. "My best-case scenario was that people would have the information to protect themselves."

She says she met Abate when she was 21 and they had a short fling.

On the day of the alleged incident, she says Contreras, who she had met two other times, invited her and a friend to come to his house and drink with him and Abate.

"I got really drunk to the point of vomiting and I was trying to keep it cool because I wanted to stay and hang out," Riddell said.

She says Contreras said they could smoke marijuana in his room, and then it progressed from there.

"And I started like slapping and like trying to get them off and Nate put his hand right here and he told me to calm down and I just gave up," Riddell said.

She says the next day, Abate texted her like everything was normal.

Riddell says 37 other women have contacted her to share their own experiences with Contreras and Abate spanning from 2008 to 2019, with some of them being minors.

"It's mostly women who are reaching out to me to tell me that they were assaulted at one point," Riddell said.

Riddell says she talked with detectives on Wednesday.

The police department also posted on social media that they've seen social media posts from community members sharing disturbing stories of sexual assault, asking them to call police.

KSBY News talked with another alleged victim who just went to police with her experience with Contreras. She asked us not to identify her.

"He did build up a trust with me and so many other women, made it feel like he was safe to be around and somebody that you could just have a good time with and hang out and be safe and that wasn't the case at all," she said.

In October of 2019, she says she met up with Contreras at a local hotel while she was intoxicated.

"I remember trying to push him off," she said. "I was telling him that I didn't want to do this. He wasn't saying anything. He just continued to do what he was doing."

The San Luis Obispo Police Department says they've interviewed several women who've come forward within the past week.

In the wake of these accusations, Kin Coffee closed its doors at both of its locations.

The Higuera Street location has limited hours and the location near Cal Poly is still closed.

A post on Kin Coffee's Instagram on Saturday stated that Contreras was stepping down and that the business would be run by its employees.

A day before that, Contreras posted that he will take the time to address these matters personally.

He also said in that post that his team at the coffee shop has donated $3,000 to the nonprofit RISE, now called Lumina Alliance, in hopes that it'll help other victims.

Contreras has not responded to our several requests for comment.

KSBY News reporter Alexa Bertola went to the coffee shop on Tuesday and was told he wouldn't be returning for a while.

Bertola went back on Wednesday but an employee locked the door as she started to walk up to the doors.

Meanwhile, Bertola went to Abate's shop to ask him about the accusations.

He denied all allegations and said everything was settled 10 years ago.

He said that his business is being ruined and that he's considering getting a lawyer.

Abate agreed to do an interview with KSBY News on Wednesday, but he's no longer returning our calls.

In The Tribune article "2 SLO County business owners accused of multiple sexual assaults, sparking investigation" Abate said this isn't the first time he's been accused of sexual assault and that in 2012, he was accused of sexually assaulting a minor:

"The arrest report was for sexual assault because that's what I was being accused of. So on the arrest report, that's what it says. But there is no actual conviction because it was unfounded and untrue."

He said he pleaded no contest to a false imprisonment charge.

He also told The Tribune:

"Julian and I did a lot of dumb stuff when we were younger, like drinking and smoking and having parties, but rape is not one of the things that was on the agenda."

KSBY News will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.