A popular Toronto nightclub has come under fire after allegations of racism and colourism were made by staff.
Past and current employees of Lavelle on Toronto's King Street West are ending their silence on the racism they experienced working at the club.
They say that they’ve seen both direct and systemic racism from the company and that most of it came from the top down.
The employees felt that their jobs were at stake if they were to speak out, claiming that there was no HR department to report the incidents to.
Rosa Jason, founder of Last Call For Racism Toronto and former Lavelle employee, spoke to Narcity about her own experiences and the testimonies she’s collected from her co-workers.
What are the allegations against Lavelle?
"When I first started working at Lavelle, I noticed right off that the [higher paid positions] were occupied by white or white-passing staff," said Jason.
"When you would look at lower-paid positions, like hostesses or back-of-house, it was all predominantly Black or BIPOC people."
She described speaking with former management, who she says hired a Black bottle-service employee after people started noticing this pattern.
Other Black employees came forward in statements made to Jason to say that they were described as "hood" or "gangster" if they did not meet the dress code or if management took issue with their hair or clothes.
One employee was called the N-word by a member of the management, according to the statements posted on Last Call's site.
"They don't want to attract the Caribana crowd, which is basically just coded language for not wanting to attract Black people," said Jason.
"So they would play less hip-hop or trap music,” she alleges, “when they didn’t want to attract those types of people to the club.“
Narcity has reached out to Lavelle about the allegations but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
What is Last Call for Racism Toronto?
Last Call for Racism Toronto was started by Jason and her colleagues to "address [their] concerns about anti-Black racism within Toronto’s nightlife industry."
"[In my year at Lavelle,] I knew a lot of this was going, and at times I had been complicit, and I knew that I had an opportunity to change that," Jason said.
Over the course of a month, she collected testimonies from past and present Lavelle employees.
"I still work in the nightlife industry in Toronto and the racism and colourism is rampant," she said.
Colourism, according to the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, is a "prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone,... a form of oppression that is expressed through the differential treatment of individuals and groups based on skin color."
"I know that the entertainment industry makes up so much of Toronto's economy," Jason says, "so it can't be ignored."
What does Last Call for Racism Toronto hope to achieve?
"We aren't trying to wage a war on Lavelle or take anyone's livelihoods. We just want to see some accountability and change," she said.
Jason expressed concern over the lack of diversity in Lavelle's upper management.
"It's all white faces in charge. Change needs to start at the ownership level."
Lavelle is owned by a consortium headed by developer Peter Freed, with partners Rob Montemarano and Reza Abedi.
"It's time to acknowledge there's a problem," Jason says.