Embattled owner sells Varsity Theater; concerts to return

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Time to put up the ol' SOLD sign, Varsity Theater. Jay Boller

Los Angeles real estate firm Downtown Properties has purchased Minneapolis' Varsity Theater for $2.51 million, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal reports

Following some upgrades, the 962-capacity Dinkytown theater will resume hosting concerts and events, Dan Lee, senior vice president of investments at Downtown Properties, tells the Biz Journal. 

"We’re excited to bring the venue back to life," Lee said by email, adding that the Varsity will "hopefully" return by the end of the year. "The plan is to continue to operate it as one of the premier venues in the country."

Downtown Properties operates hotels, resorts, apartment complexes, and commercial buildings around the country and in the U.K. Calls to Lee were not immediately returned. 

The Varsity largely went dark in late 2016 as sex-abuse allegations mounted against its owner, Jason McLean. 

McLean, 62, a former actor/teacher with the Children's Theatre Company Co., is alleged to have sexually abused five female students in the 1980s, according to civil lawsuits filed in 2015 and 2016 in Hennepin County District Court.

That bad PR proved poisonous for the Varsity. Citing charges against McLean, several high-profile touring acts moved shows originally scheduled for the venue. The Varsity last promoted an event via social media eight months ago. 

The legal process isn't going any smoother for McLean. He failed to appear for a deposition last January, according to court records.

“The bottom line is Jason McLean has gone on the legal lam,” Jeff Anderson, the Minneapolis attorney representing McLean's alleged victims, told City Pages in February. “We had served him with the subpoena and a notice of deposition, even though he’s gone to some length to evade service of process, and us, for almost a year and a half.”

The Varsity last issued an official statement in 2016.

“The Varsity has 60 employees who depend on their jobs for a living,” senior manager Lynn Nyman said. “No one alleges the employees did anything wrong. They are the people who are most harmed by a boycott of the business."

McLean -- who also owns the nearby Loring Pasta Bar -- re-opened the 102-year-old Varsity Theater in 2005. He purchased the space for $1.1 million in 2009, according to property records.

McLean could not be reached for comment; numerous calls and emails to Varsity employees went un-returned throughout the year. 


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