Jason McLean, the owner of Uptown Oakland bar and venue Small Wonder, has reportedly fled to Mexico to avoid charges that he sexually abused children in Minnesota. Five plaintiffs have accused McLean of sexually abusing them in the 1980s, when he was an instructor at the Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis.
Charges were first brought against McLean, who is now in his ’60s, in 2015, though word of them may not have reached the Bay Area. One former student claimed that McLean “coerced and raped” her when he was 29 and she was 15. During the same era, another employee of the Children’s Theater Company was jailed after he plead guilty to engaging in sexual conduct with underage boys. That employee now faces more allegations of sexual assault.
McClean was operating a restaurant and theater in Minneapolis when the charges were filed. He sold the businesses and move to Oakland, where he opened the Loring Cafe, which later rebranded as the eclectic Small Wonder. Small Wonder is reportedly still open, though its future is unclear.
In Oakland, McLean was reportedly served with a lawsuit, and when he failed to arrive in court, a judge entered a default judgment of $2.5 million against him.
Molly Burke, a lawyer representing the five plaintiffs against McLean, claims that he’s now on the run. He’s fled to Cabo San Lucas in Baja California, Mexico, where he has a sale pending on a house, Burke says.
Some Bay Area residents are already reacting to the news on Small Wonder’s Yelp page. “There's no way I'll ever patronize this Oakland-based business,” one person writes.
- Former theater instructor ordered to pay $2.5M in Children's Theatre case [Minneapolis Star Tribune]
- $2.5 Million Judgment in Sex Abuse Case Against Former Loring Owner [Eater Twin Cities]
- Small Wonder's Fate Uncertain As Owner Faces Sexual Abuse Charges [East Bay Express]