Edmonton woman recounts 'horrible' work environment at The Needle Vinyl Tavern

Closure of The Needle a blow to Edmonton music scene, owner of another venue says

When Tania Gonzalez saw the Facebook post alleging sexual assault at The Needle Vinyl Tavern she was initially happy — until the memories came rushing back.

"It's triggering to read these things when you've been a victim of that," Gonzalez told CBC News.

Gonzalez was an employee at The Needle from August 2016 to April 2017.

She said as a server at a bar you expect a certain amount of flirting, even harassment. But she was shocked by some of the behaviour at The Needle.

"You expect to have men flirt with you, you expect at one point someone is going to say something fresh and you're going to pretend it never happened," Gonzalez said.

"That's just the nature of the industry. So I went into it with that understanding, but what I saw was unbelievable."

'Horrible place to work'

In a Facebook post on Monday that has since been shared more than 500 times, Brittany Lyne Rudyck accused a co-owner of The Needle Vinyl Tavern of sexually harassing her in March.

"He was blackout drunk and groped me several times after I repeatedly said no," Rudyck wrote. "It came to the point where I had to ask security to kick him out. He was disrespectful to a number of staff that night, and sadly that was not the first time he'd acted inappropriately at the venue."

Gonzalez said harassment was a well-known issue at the bar, and the owners thought they were untouchable.

"The place was a disaster. It was a horrible place to work in," Gonzalez said.

"They were rich white men who felt that they were untouchable and they were. They paid our bills, they wrote our paycheques. And so we all smiled through it."

"The moment you say something, management will say, 'Yeah, I support you.' But then your shifts are cut and it's because the people that are signing their paycheques are saying, 'Make this go away.' "

The Needle put out a statement saying it has cut ties with the co-owner in question. On Tuesday, the bar shut down indefinitely.

Gonzalez said she saw and experienced things at her job that she wishes she would have spoken up about.

"You have bills to pay and mouths to feed, and I remember what that felt like. I am a single mom; I have two kids. And I remember what that felt like. You swallow your pride and go into work that next day and look at the owners and pretend nothing happened."

Gonzalez finally decided to quit when she realized the person she had become at work was spilling over into her personal life.

"It changes you, fundamentally," she said. "It changes the way you interact with other people. You are suddenly more guarded, you get a bit saltier, a bit grittier, it makes you more cynical."

CBC News repeatedly asked the owners of The Needle about these new allegations but has not received a response.

Gonzalez said she hopes the fallout from the allegations, and the support from the music scene, will encourage others to speak out and address similarly toxic behaviour in the industry.

"It's really, really important that — not just in the Edmonton music industry, but as a society — that we are calling out the men that are closest to us and having those awkward conversations."