Chicago Venue and Label Owner Accused of Setting Up Hidden Cameras To Capture Nude Images, Removed As President

Michael Johnston, the owner of Lincoln Hall and Schuba’s Tavern, two well-known music venues in Chicago, has been accused of setting up hidden cameras in his home to capture nude images of his nanny, according to a lawsuit initially reported on by NBC 5.

Johnston, as well as his wife, Kelly Halverson, have been sued in a civil suit by two women that were previously employed by them. The two women, who are identified as “Jane Doe” and “Julie Doe” in the lawsuit, are said to be friends and recent graduates of DePaul University, according to their attorney Gail Eisenberg, of the law firm Loftus & Eisenberg. 

According to the suit, the two women were asked to housesit at Johnston and Halverson’s home in Jan. 2020, and were encouraged to “use the jacuzzi bathtub in the master bathroom.” When housesitting at a different time, the women allege that they found a hidden camera disguised as a picture frame near the jacuzzi bathtub, and then proceeded to find two more hidden cameras in another bathroom and bedroom.

Jane Doe and Julie Doe allege that the couple used the cameras to record and photograph nude images of them.

Lincoln Hall, located near DePaul’s campus in Lincoln Park, and can hold up to 557 divided between the venue’s floor area and balcony. The venue’s sister location, Schuba’s Tavern is located in the city’s Lakeview neighborhood and can hold between 155 and 250 people, depending on if the performance is seated or not. We’ve covered an extensive amount of shows at both locations.

As both of the venues have smaller capacity limits, they typically host up-and-coming touring artists and Chicago-based bands. Schuba’s Tavern, which opened as a music venue in 1989l, has hosted artists like Modest Mouse, Dave Matthews and Amy Winehouse early in their respective careers. The Alabama Shakes, Mumford & Sons and Ellie Goulding have all played at Lincoln Hall years before they broke it big as well. Schuba’s and Lincoln Hall were both purchased in 2015 as part of a multi-million dollar deal by Audioleaf, a company owned by Johnston’s father, William Johnston.

In addition to owning the two storied venues, Johnston also co-founded record label Audiotree 10 years ago. Audiotree primarily focuses on recording and publishing live music sessions. Because of the label’s extensive experience with recording live sessions, Audiotree utilized streaming media to stay afloat during the pandemic by streaming live virtual concerts that fans would buy tickets to.

In a Nov. 15 statement posted on social media, it was announced that Johnston has been removed as the President and CEO of Audiotree, Audiotree Presents, Lincoln Hall, Schuba’s Tavern and Lakeview restaurant Tied House.

“As of Saturday, [Nov.] 12, Johnston is no longer a part of the Audiotree team,” the statement said. “We respectfully ask for patience as we navigate this challenging time. Co-founder and COO Adam Thurston will now lead the companies as President & CEO.”

Johnston will next appear in court on Nov. 17.

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