In the past three months, three lawsuits have been filed against Jason McLean, the owner of the Varsity Theater and the Loring Pasta Bar, alleging that he sexually abused minors as a Children’s Theatre Company member in the 1980s. Now some alleged victims and their supporters are taking to social media to call for a boycott of McLean’s Dinkytown venues.
The boycott campaign prompted Minneapolis DJ Jake Rudh to announce on Thursday that he is pulling his popular monthly Transmission dance parties from the Varsity, after he was criticized in Facebook posts for hosting a David Bowie tribute there Tuesday night.
At the root of the campaign against the Minneapolis rock club, which hosts many high-profile concerts booked by music industry behemoth Live Nation as well as wedding receptions, was a letter posted on Facebook by choreographer Rosy Simas, who claims that she was one of the sex-abuse victims at the Children’s Theatre in the 1980s and that she was “a witness to the abuse” by McLean. Simas is not one of the women who have filed a suit against McLean.
“Please do not support Jason McLean by attending or promoting events at the Varsity,” Simas’ letter reads.
McLean’s attorney, Jon Hopeman, did not respond to a request for comment Friday. McLean, 61, and Hopeman have declined media requests for comment since the first lawsuit was filed on Nov. 30. In a statement issued then, Hopeman noted that state investigators pursued allegations against McLean in 1984 but brought no charges.
The Children’s Theatre Company, which is also being sued by five alleged victims, issued a statement after the first lawsuit that read: “Any abuse of a child is a terrible act; it goes against everything we believe in as professionals and as human beings. We stand with the victims of abuse in their desire to see justice done and to have the truth be known.”
Announcing his plans to move his Transmission parties, Rudh said in his own Facebook post that the change was brought on by social-media comments made against him based on Simas’ letter.
“I’ve seen them all, and they’ve been crushing,” Rudh said. “This has been the most trying and stressful scenario I’ve ever had to deal with in my 20-year career as a DJ, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed.”
One music scene insider, Robyn Lewis, criticized Rudh and his parties’ sponsor, 89.3 the Current, to her 1,000 Facebook friends earlier in the week. She also was one of 40 Facebook users to share Simas’ letter. After Rudh announced his departure from the venue, Lewis praised the DJ.
“I called them out specifically because of their far-reaching influence and respect in the community,” said Lewis, a tour manager and former bartender at Clubhouse Jäger, where Rudh also DJs.
“I’m sympathetic to the staff that works [at the Varsity] and relies on it for income,” Lewis added, “but I’m more sympathetic to the victims.”
Lynn Nyman, senior manager at the Varsity, issued a statement that emphasized the fact the venue’s employees would be hurt most by any boycott.
“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. … I ask the patrons to stick with the Varsity, in the meantime, for the sake of the employees.”