On Friday night, College Street Bar's doors were locked, dark curtains blocked its front windows and a handwritten note on its door announced it would be temporarily closed. This was the same case—save for the note—on Thursday night too, despite its website stating open hours between Thursdays through Sundays every week.
The closure comes after its owner and an employee were appeared in court this week, both charged on four counts of gang sexual assault, trafficking a schedule 1 substance and forcible confinement.
It's been just over a month since Gavin MacMillan, 31, and Enzo De Jesus Carrasco, 41, (the owner and the employee respectively) allegedly drugged, sexually assaulted and trapped a 24-year-old woman inside the bar from the evening of December 14 until the morning of December 15.
While the men were first arrested the day after the alleged assault, they were released on bail on Christmas Eve and the bar reopened a week later for New Year's Eve.
The day before the alleged suspects were released, protesters held a peaceful demonstration in front of the bar. This past month has seen locals expressing anger with the establishment remaining open and reportedly egging the bar's front windows.
Located in Toronto's Little Italy, College Street Bar is a spot that's popular for its flair bartenders, and live music. But instead of its regular Friday night crowd last night, a small group of protesters were standing outside the bar, this time celebrating a victory. Protesters told VICE the bar had been open last week.
As they held signs advocating for a safer service industry, some teared up with joy and other's yelled, "We believe her."
The demonstration was organized by a local advocacy group called the Sexual Assault Action Coalition. On Thursday, Viktoria Belle, one of the group's co-founders, met with Toronto Councilor Mike Layton about their concerns with College Street Bar remaining open.
"Right away, [Layton] said he would to put a motion together to have their liquor licence and their live music licence taken away," Belle told VICE. According to Belle, the Alcohol and Gaming Commision of Ontario (AGCO) are now reviewing and the bar's liquor and business licenses.
"College Street Bar should be closed until after the trial and [when] there's a verdict met because it has remained open to the patronage without any sort of transparency or any knowledge of what's going on inside or who's working the bar," Belle told VICE.
Service industry workers say the alleged sexual assault is not an isolated case. Neesha Temple, one of the protesters and a current service industry worker, told VICE the industry must do more to protect employees.
"I've been assaulted in this industry before and it's unfortunate to say that I did keep my mouth shut and I didn't feel like I had a voice," Temple said. "It's really unfortunate that, when we want to let loose on a Friday night, this is what happens."
The alleged assault at College Street Bar comes after changes to Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act required employers to implement protocol for dealing with sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. As establishments continue to fail these provisions, service industry workers and activists including the Sexual Assault Action Coalition plan to bring awareness of these very prominent issues to Toronto's government.
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