Varsity Theater Under Scrutiny

Protesters call for boycott of the Minneapolis music venue after the owner is accused of multiple counts of sex abuse.

A beautiful venue, a great restaurant and an allegedly dark backstory.

Current owner of The Varsity Theater and Loring Pasta Bar, Jason McLean has four civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of minors at the Children’s Theater Company during the ’70s and ’80s, when he worked as an actor and teaching artist.

14445261_1204394236283429_1625766846_nAccording to the Star Tribune, the women have recently come forward due to a change in the way sexual abuse cases involving a minor were handled under the Minnesota Child Victims Act. Originally, the women would have been turned away by police because of the law previously in place stating that all claims of sexual abuse as a minor needed to be filed before the victim is 24 years of age.

With this change in the law, the Sexual Violence Justice Institute informs that “individuals older than 24 at the time of the Child Victim Act enactment (May 25, 2013) have a three-year window of opportunity from the date of enactment to bring their civil claim forward. This window period ended on May 24, 2016.”

Victims of sexual abuse and their supporters called for a boycott of McLean’s businesses. The reality is some people, long aware of rumors, have quietly boycotted the two businesses for years. On September 10, about 40 demonstrators gathered outside the businesses with signs and knowledge to share. According to The Minnesota Daily, the protest was meant to educate the campus community of sexual abuse allegations against the Dinkytown businesses’ owner, Jason McLean, said the organizer Sarah Super.

In wake of the lawsuits against McLean, a handful of acts have decided to switch venues from the Dinkytown venue. Including Warpaint, Against Me!, Baroness and Jake Rudh, a DJ who had often filled the venue with repeat events. Rudh posted to his personal Facebook page in response to the allegations, “the scheduled Transmission event that was to take place on January 27th will now be moved to Clubhouse Jager. The venue of all future monthly themed Transmissions will be determined on a monthly basis.”

The Star Tribune reports Lynn Nyman, senior manager at the Varsity Theater, issued a statement that emphasized the fact the venue’s employees would be hurt most by any boycott. Nyman states “The allegations against Jason McLean are more than 30 years old and are not related to the Varsity or its employees. I ask that the patrons let the legal process take its place which will happen in due time. I ask the patrons to stick with the Varsity, in the meantime, for the sake of the employees.”

Super, in response, noted that the boycotting of the businesses was intended to honor the wishes of survivors. “I have sympathy for the employees who I do believe are innocent and have not participated in any part of the sexual abuse around these victims. I have a lot of sympathy for the people who have come forward … I have no sympathy for Jason McLean,” she said.

With the lawsuits still in limbo, public awareness and justice for the victims are the main goal for the demonstrators. If there is a show at the Varsity that you would like to attend but also want to show support for the victims, the best advice is to let the headlining band or artist know of the accusations ahead of time. This way the act has time to move venues if they so choose. In the end, it is up to you whether you go or not.

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