Artists Boycott Toronto Venue After Owner Charged With Sexual Assault

Smiling Buddha
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images
– Smiling Buddha
A March 14, 2018, photo of the exterior of Toronto’s Smiling Buddha.
The majority of shows at Toronto’s The Smiling Buddha have been moved to other area locations after news surfaced that venue owner Lucan Wai had been charged with sexual assault in February. 

Booking manager and in-house promoter Matthew Sandrin, who had been a longtime employee at The Smiling Buddha, quit March 8, a day after one of the musicians playing the venue reached out to him and say they “froze up, mentally and physically and couldn’t play” when they saw Wai, according to the Toronto Star. Sandrin has since helped relocate nearly 40 gigs that were booked at the venue. 

Outside promoter Dan Burke and events such as Collective Concerts, Canadian Music Week and Venues Fest have also moved their shows, according to the Star.   

“We immediately pulled all shows at the venue upon hearing the allegations and are re-scheduling them accordingly,” Dave Henry, Canadian Music Week Festival Manager, said in a statement released to Pollstar. “Canadian Music week is dedicated to providing a welcoming and safe environment for all of our attendees. Our goal has always been to create a fun atmosphere that is respectful and tolerant, without enabling destructive behaviours and attitudes. This means ensuring audiences are not exposed to harm, negligence, intimidation, harassment of any kind that would lead to unsafe conditions.”

Wai has defended himself against the accusations in a post on his Facebook page March 14.

“As many of you may have noticed, some articles have been circulating about me and I would like to address the allegations,” Wai posted. “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.”

The alleged incident reportedly occurred at Wai’s home, according to the Star. The paper noted that a Toronto police spokesperson confirmed he had been charged with one count of sexual assault but wouldn’t comment on any other details. 

Wai took over Smiling Buddha three and a half years ago and previously co-owned the local restaurant and event space The Central, which closed in January 2017, according to Now magazine.