Toronto concert promoters are attempting to relocate their upcoming shows away from venue Smiling Buddha following an allegation of sexual assault against one of the bar's owners.
NOW reports that co-owner Lucan Wai was arrested and charged with one count of sexual assault in February of this year. Toronto Police confirmed that he was arrested and charged, though they did not comment on the precise details of the allegations.
The allegations against Wai have not been proven in court. The accuser has also not issued any comment.
Wai shared the following statement with Exclaim!:
An attempt was made to extort monies from me and the Smiling Buddha. No monies were paid and a cease and desist letter was sent to the individual. Thereafter, the individual contacted police and I was charged. I am looking forward to clearing my name. Thank you.
NOW notes that the allegations have led the club's booking manager and lead talent buyer, Matthew Sandrin, to quit. Veteran concert promoter Dan Burke, who has booked many shows at Smiling Buddha, told Exclaim! that he, Sandrin and venue staff tried to organize a meeting to urge Wai to withdraw from the business.
"The only chance to maintain shows at the venue with such an allegation was if the the person in question withdrew from active management of the club until the court case is resolved," Burke explained. "Even then, we'd have to see if bands were still comfortable with the situation. But that idea went nowhere. So the mass exodus of all our shows began last Friday: Sandrin's, mine, Collective Concerts, CMW. All of us."
While a number of shows have been relocated since the allegations, some bands have chosen to stay. A March 10 performance from Crywank and Chastity, booked by Sandrin, went ahead on the condition that Wai not be present at the venue.
An upcoming show with Montreal's NOBRO on March 30 is also still planned to continue. "Right now, they're good to go," Burke said. "And if they want to stand their ground, I'm with them."
Wai became co-owner of the Smiling Buddha in July 2014. He had previously owned Mirvish Village venue the Central, which closed in January 2017 after 10 years of operation.
Smiling Buddha is recognized as an incubator for local talent, in addition to a staple for DJ nights and a festival venue for events such as NXNE, Canadian Music Week and Not Dead Yet. The venue has also hosted performers such as Lone, Daniel Romano and DJ Paypal of influential footwork crew Teklife.