Closure of The Needle a blow to Edmonton music scene, owner of another venue says

A co-owner of an Edmonton music venue says losing a popular venue as a result of sexual harassment allegations is another blow to an already-hurting local music industry.

Dale Weran says The Needle's closure due to sexual harassment allegations leaves a huge gap in music scene

The Needle Vinyl Tavern is has been closed since November 2017. One of the bar's former co-owners, James Leder, has plead guilty to sexually assaulting one of his employees. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

The co-owner of an Edmonton music venue says losing a popular venue as a result of sexual harassment allegations is another blow to an already-hurting local music industry.

Dale Weran, co-owner of the Forge on Whyte, has been following closely the news about the sexual harassment allegations against one of the owners of The Needle.

Brittany Lyne Rudyck made allegations this week that one of the owners of The Needle Vinyl Tavern sexually harassed her in March. When she told her manager and other staff, she said she received some support, but no apology.

Last week, Rudyck said she met with the three owners, including the one who allegedly harassed her. She said they dismissed her complaints about the man — so she quit.

Weran said The Needle handled the situation poorly.

"When something like this happens, it's pretty severe," Weran told CBC's Radio Active on Thursday. "They need to be dealt with by the ownership group pretty quickly and swiftly, to make sure that they don't have problems."

Weran said the co-owner who faced the allegations should have immediately been "taken out of the equation" until management and the other owners could investigate the claims.

"Usually, if there's allegations, chances are there is some truth behind it."

Losing the venue

Weran said Rudyck's post on Facebook ultimately led to the closure of a critical venue in the downtown music scene.

"It's another hit to an already-hurting industry," he said. "All the staff and everybody who worked there, and the music industry in Edmonton in general, are being affected because of this.

"Yes, people need to be held accountable, but not necessarily everybody else [should be] affected."

He said with the closure of The Needle, the Starlite Room is the only venue in the area that can accommodate about 500 people. The next size in venue is Union Hall, which is south of Whyte Avenue. 

The Needle's ability to hold smaller shows, afternoon shows and all-ages shows will also sorely be missed.

Social media movement?

Though Weran said dealing with harassment is important, he said social media might not have been the best vehicle for Rudyck to get her message out.

"If the owners are not going to hold themselves accountable, then social media is an avenue," he said. "[But] it's not the right avenue.

"There are other avenues you can take that aren't as drastic."

But Veronica Lawrence, the co-founder of the Society for the Advocacy of Safe Spaces in Calgary, said the social media movement is a powerful way to send a message.

"What we're seeing in the social media movement is that women are coming together," Lawrence told CBC's Radio Active Thursday. "They're starting to tell their stories in a much larger way."

She said it is often the only option for women in the music venue industry. "As far as I'm aware, most venues don't have an HR department," she said.

Lawrence said the managers and owners are often the HR department by default, and when it's the managers or co-owners doing the harassing, there aren't many options.

"Many people are going privately to try and have those conversations," she said. "And when they're not being heard, or when they feel like their concerns aren't being addressed, they're taking to social media. They feel it's their last resort."

SASS works with venue owners, managers and staff in Calgary to turn their spaces into safer ones that are free of discrimination and sexual misconduct.

"We need safer spaces to provide them with an opportunity to have their voices be heard, to be able to feel safe when they go out, just as anyone else deserves to have," Lawrence said.

Listen to Radio Active with host Portia Clark, weekday afternoons on CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM/740 AM in Edmonton. Follow the show on Twitter: @CBCRadioActive.

With files from Aala Abdullahi