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Amid Sexual Assault Allegations Swirling Online, Co-Owner Of Middle East Nightclub Retires

Joseph Sater, the co-owner of the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub in Cambridge, is retiring from his position at the storied Central Square music venue. The owners announced this on Facebook Tuesday night in response to what they call "unsubstantiated third-party claims" of sexual misconduct.

The Middle East denied the allegations. “We can say, unequivocally, that the allegations being spread online are absolutely not true and that just being publicly accused is absolutely devastating. After 44 years, Joseph Sater has decided to retire from managing the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub.”

The post continued, “Over the past 4-plus decades, we have worked hard to create a warm, respectful, safe-- and, as a music venue-- fun work environment. We always strive to do better and we sincerely apologize if any current or former employees have not had a positive experience or have felt unsafe.”

The Cambridge Police said that they did not have any arrests or incident reports listing Sater as a suspect.

The announcement came after some performers cancelled shows at the Middle East and its affiliated venues Sonia and Zuzu in response to allegations on social media of sexual assault and harassment against Sater. (WBUR has not been able to substantiate any of these claims.) Last fall, the genderqueer dance party Houseboi severed ties with the Middle East and the Boston League of Wicked Wrestlers (B.L.O.W.W.) cancelled an event at the venue.

B.L.O.W.W. organizer Heather Mack said that Sater's decision to retire was an inadequate response to the accusations against him. “It's a farce. I mean, it's not real accountability in any way, shape or form.”

The Worcester band The Hotelier cancelled a show at the Middle East last fall “due to in-house safety concerns," as did The Courters and The Worriers.

The issue resurfaced earlier this month when Alex Pickert, a former Middle East talent buyer, posted a letter to Facebook detailing his tenure at the venue, during which time a staff member accused one of the owners of sexual assault. According to Pickert, the accused came back to work after a short leave of absence.

“When that happened, it became evident that the Middle East was not willing to commit to the hard work and dedication it takes to change a toxic culture,” Pickert wrote. “Therefore, myself and other employees had finally had enough and quit.”

Last week the Boston band Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys announced it would donate the profits of its opening set at the Middle East Downstairs to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. On Tuesday, the Boston rapper Oompa moved her Thursday show from Sonia to another venue. Both cited concerns about sexual misconduct allegations.

Amelia Mason Twitter Music Reporter/Critic, The ARTery
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for The ARTery, WBUR's Arts and Culture team. She covers everything from indie rock to avant-garde to the inner workings of the Boston music scene.

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