Did bar employee's workplace drinking kill a young father?

The family of Brandon Pearson asked the Fox 9 Investigators to look into the fatal traffic crash that took the young father's life last fall. What Fox 9 found is something that could put the safety of others at risk.

Brandon's daughter Zoey is an aspiring ballerina, now being raised by her grandmother Kerry Pearson.

"She'll say things like Jesus, please let my daddy come home," said Kerry. "Let him come back to earth."

On Sunday, Nov. 8 the family spent the day playing in the leaves. One last photo was taken on that day shortly before Brandon had to leave for a meeting.

Killed on his way to a meeting

Brandon was riding his motorcycle along Broadway Street in Northeast Minneapolis, just before 6 p.m. when an oncoming car turned into his lane. Kim Peterson and her husband heard the crash and rushed over to offer help.

"I stayed with him, I held his hand, I kept reassuring him, I kept talking to him," said Peterson.

She says the driver of the car that hit Brandon kept saying she didn't see him because his motorcycle's headlight wasn't on.

"I said B.S. His headlight's on right now," Peterson remembered.

Brandon, 31, never regained consciousness and died a short time later at a hospital.

Drinking at work?

Hannah Christie Weyh is charged with criminal vehicular homicide. She's accused of driving with a blood alcohol level of point 19, more than twice the legal limit.

Authorities say she made a statement that she had been drinking at her place of employment, a restaurant and bar just a few blocks away from the crash scene.

"If the bar served her any drinks in that condition they are liable," said the family's attorney, Paul Downes.

The owner of the Northeast Social tells the Fox 9 Investigators he doesn't allow employees to drink while they're working, with one exception -- staff can toast customers with a small glass of wine. The owner says he allows the ritual to happen once a shift.

"It's a pretty sweet deal for everyone who works here," said a server at the Northeast Social.

But that's not what we saw when the Fox 9 Investigators went undercover.

"You get to have beer and wine whenever you want while you're working," said the server to two producers.

Twice in two hours, our producers witnessed the staff toasting the crowd.

Producer: You're a lot happier now.

Server: "I just had a shot of whiskey, that's probably why."

There's an item on the menu called the "Kitchen Social".  Customers can buy a round of beer for the chefs.

Server:  "They definitely appreciate it. They work had back there."

Our server said there's no limit on how many drinks staff can have.

Server: "Don't get sloppy is the guidelines. People shouldn't be able to tell you've been drinking is the guidelines."

When the Fox 9 Investigators brought this to the attention of owner Joe Wagner, he said that's not true. He declined to talk on camera but said "We don't condone intoxication for employees. We don't condone drinking on the job or anything like that."

Wagner added if customers buy drinks for the staff they can't drink until their shift is over.

We did return to the restaurant for Sunday brunch, but in the two hours our undercover producers were there, they did not see any staff drinking.

"I just pray another family doesn't have to go through this," said Misty Fields an aunt of  Brandon's.

Two of his aunts said they've eaten at the Northeast Social on several occasions. They say they too witnessed the staff drinking while they were working.

"They all had beer and just toasted and they banged on the pots," Fields recalled.

On the day of the crash, Weyh worked the brunch shift according to the restaurant's owner. He claimed she didn't get drunk there.

He said when her shift ended at two o'clock in the afternoon and she went to meet some friends at another bar nearby.  But authorities said Weyh gave them a statement at the accident scene that she had just come from her job where she had some drinks.

We tried talking with Weyh, but she's currently out of state at a chemical dependency treatment center. Her lawyer declined to comment.

Brandon's Journey of Recovery

Brandon Pearson's close friends said he would likely forgive Weyh for what happened.

"Always smiled, humble, light hearted," said one of the friends. "We were his sponsors."

The night he died, he was on his way to speak at a recovery meeting for people battling addiction.

"He got clean, was doing really good," another friend recalled.

After being seriously hurt in a car crash in 2010, Brandon developed an addiction to pain killers. He'd told Mindy Heinkel, another of his aunts, that the message he wanted to deliver to the recovery group was one of hope.

"Regret, letting go, forgiveness." said Heinkel.

According to Brandon's family the little girl in his life, was his inspiration for a life of sobriety.

Every night she still talks to him in her prayers.  "Daddy you need to pack your clothes and come back to earth. Then she'll plead with god and say I’'ll be good. I'll do anything you ask to have my daddy back," said her grandmother.


There is a fund set up for Zoey by her family at Wells Fargo banks. To contribute ask for the “Zoey's Enrichment” fund at any Wells Fargo bank.