Local musicians, artists, and even a local paper are boycotting Sniggily Wiggily’s, a Halifax bar co-owned by Mike Smith, who plays Bubbles on Trailer Park Boys. Smith has been accused of sexual assault and domestic assault. Smith denies the allegations.
Some musicians said they started boycotting when the bar opened because of Smith’s 2016 arrest in Los Angeles, where the actor was initially charged with domestic assault, a charge that was later dropped after the alleged victim said in a statement that Smith did not assault her. Others cited a VICE News investigation in March detailing a 2005 sexual assault allegation against Smith as their reason for avoiding the bar.
The steampunk-themed rock venue first opened in March 2018, with a capacity of about 300. Musicians say there are five to seven live music venues in Halifax, depending on the type of music. VICE spoke to eight musicians who said they were participating in the boycott.
Nathan Doucet said that a band asked his band Aquakultre to play with them after the venue's opening but they turned it down—a decision he called “obvious.” He said he intentionally avoids the space and advises people not to go there. He wants the venue to lose clientele so it will either close, or the owners will take accountability measures, including cutting Smith out of the business. Ultimately, he wants a cultural shift toward taking sexual assault allegations seriously.
Nikki Basset runs Not Your Boys Club, a group for femme, trans, and non-binary artists that also books shows and provides safe space facilitation. “[The goal of the boycott is] to say we don’t tolerate this, it’s not OK in the wake of the #MeToo movement,” Basset, a survivor of sexual assault, said. “It’s not something that is swept under the rug anymore.”
Tara Thorne, a musician and an editor at The Coast, the local alt weekly, said her band won’t play at Sniggily Wiggily’s and the paper won’t give the bar media coverage, other than in the music listings. She decided to boycott the bar when it opened, because she remembered the 2016 Los Angeles incident. After the VICE News story in March, the rest of the Coast editors followed Thorne’s lead. (Full disclosure: I used to write for The Coast.)
“The editors at The Coast decided collectively, we don’t want to be on the wrong side of history,” she said.
Sniggily Wiggily's declined to comment for this story.
It’s unclear how many musicians are participating in the boycott. In April 2018, a Reddit thread discussed bands dropping shows “left, right and centre.” Heather Grant, who plays in punk bands, said that the majority of people she knows in the scene refuse to go there. “It’s a unspoken thing that you don’t go there, don’t play shows there,” she said.
Meghan Scott, manager of Halifax Urban Folk Festival, who is trying to book musicians at the bar for the festival, believes the boycott has gone too far.
“This doesn’t appear to be a ‘boycott’ as much as a targeted and vindictive effort by one or a handful of people to force their opinion and agenda onto others,” Scott said in a statement. “It is wrong, and it has created a harmful and divisive atmosphere in the Halifax music scene over the past year. It needs to stop.”
Sam Nijjar, a member of the band The Legendary Goldblooms, has played shows at Sniggily Wiggily’s since it opened. He said it’s important to support the bar “in a city with fewer and fewer stages to play.” He said he hasn’t received any backlash for playing there.
“I certainly would never support anyone who was convicted in a court of law of such an unthinkably horrific crime like sexual assault, but I have to believe in our judicial system,” he said of the allegations against Smith.
Doucet says his preference would have been for the case against Smith to be heard in court, but thinks the courts generally haven't been good at handling sexual assault allegations. “I have watched women come forward and go to court and go through the justice system and there’s such a small chance anything will actually happen.”
Police did not charge Smith in the 2005 incident, with an officer noting in police documents that the “complainant declines to lay charge.” The alleged victim told VICE News that the officer made her feel like she did not have a case.
It’s unclear how effective the boycott has been, but a former Sniggily Wiggily’s employee said she and others had been laid off from the venue because not enough people were going to the bar. She didn’t want to be named because she is precariously employed.
“We need that space in Halifax, we’re dying for music venues. It’s the perfect size, it’s great for emerging artists,” the former employee said.
Hilary Beaumont can be reached by email at email@example.com
Correction: Doucet says his band was asked to play shortly after the bar opened, in May 2018, not opening night, as originally reported.