Response to Concerns Regarding Sonia

We have recently received some concerned messages about the venue reserved by one of our partners for the performance of a live show on the weekend of PodTales. Specifically, one of our partners is performing at Sonia, a subsidiary venue of The Middle East. We learned only after the venue had been booked that it had been subject of a boycott last year, following serious accusations of sexual assault by one of the venue’s managers. The information available to us at that time led us to understand that the boycott had ended with the removal of the accused person, and a substantial change in culture at the venue, with emphasis on sexual harassment training and much improved safety policies and practices. However, additional information that we have learned in the past week has complicated that understanding.

Our foremost concern is for the safety of those attending PodTales or our partner shows. The retirement of the accused person and the instatement of sexual harassment training among other changes are positive steps. By most accounts, the environment at The Middle East and its subsidiaries is much reformed. To our knowledge, there is no reason to believe that the venue is, at this time, any less safe than other venues.

Which is all good, but does not automatically mean that all is forgiven.

One portion of the community—the portion that we heard from while initially reviewing the situation—was satisfied by the changes made by the venue and considered the boycott over. We only recently learned that a second contingent has continued the boycott. They are concerned, firstly, that the venue was aware of and failed to act on the misconduct for a substantial period of time prior to the employee walkout that brought the situation to public attention. And second–and particularly troubling–is that the accused party, though no longer working at or with the venue, continues to co-own the venue and profit from it.

Had we been aware of that last fact earlier, we certainly would have urged all our partners to avoid the venue.

We have reached out to our partner to discuss the situation and inquire whether there is any possibility of changing venue. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons both financial and practical, changing venues at this late date is not a possibility. And so we find ourselves stuck in a bad situation for which we can see no clear remedy—the association with the venue is distasteful, but our partner cannot relocate without untenable harm to their financial wellbeing. The situation is no fault of theirs—being from out of state, they had less opportunity to be aware of the venue’s history than we did, and planned their event in good faith. Being unaware of the issue ourselves, we failed to advise them about the problem.

The one concrete action we can take is to provide better guidance to our future partners at future PodTales. This we are determined to do.

Alexander Danner
September 30th, 2019