Being blackballed by a half-dozen of Miami's highest-profile nightclubs might not be catastrophic for the average South Florida reveler. On the bright side, you'd stay blissfully clear of strangers' arm sweat and debris from Steve Aoki's cake-throwing stage antics. But for booking manager Jason Kasten, getting banned from LIV, Space, Story, Komodo, E11even, and Mokai amounted to a professional disaster.
In a lawsuit filed in Broward County Court this past Wednesday, Kasten contends his estranged former client, DJ Irie, AKA Ian Grocher, wielded clout in the local scene to have him barred from those clubs. Known as the Miami Heat's longtime DJ, a LIV event promoter, and head of the nonprofit Irie Foundation, DJ Irie didn't want Kasten anywhere near him, it appears.
What's behind the excommunication from Miami nightlife?
According to the new lawsuit, Irie became irate that Kasten was pursuing an assault claim over an alleged beatdown the DJ administered to Kasten following a dispute at a Toronto event in 2016. In retaliation for Kasten's demand for damages, Irie allegedly sent a message to Miami club moguls Roman Jones and Emi Guerra, among others, with the subject line "Eight Six."
"Need a favor fam. Please 86 my former tour manager Jason Kasten from your properties," the message reads.
Below that text was a photo of the wide-eyed, thin-framed Kasten, wearing a T-shirt and smiling like a youth who could still get into LIV.
Manny Vadillo, an attorney for DJ Irie's company, questioned Kasten's motives for filing the lawsuit in Broward. He told New Times that "it seems Mr. Kasten is venue shopping," given that he pursued comparable claims in an amendment to his civil assault case against Irie in Miami court.
DJ Irie's attorney in the Miami proceedings, Skip Pita, challenged Kasten to provide specific examples of business lost due to Irie's actions. He called Kasten's claims "all puff, no substance."
The lawsuit filed Wednesday demands damages for tortious interference with Kasten's business as well as defamation for "false statements" the DJ and an associate allegedly made to Kasten's colleagues "about his character, work ethic, performance, and other characteristics." Irie's associate said she would have given Kasten a solid job recommendation if he had "kept his mouth shut," the lawsuit says.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to New Times Broward-Palm Beach's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling South Florida's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
According to the pleading, Kasten wasn't just stripped of the privilege of rubbing shoulders with VIPs and enjoying the tinnitus-inducing sounds of big-room house music at Space. The ban also derailed Kasten's business opportunities, he says. He claims the inability to work at the clubs cost him professional relationships with DJ Rascal and the Miami-based apparel brand owner D'MXCI. "Plaintiff was forced to stop working with multiple clients after Defendant DJ Irie blocked him from these [clubs]," the Broward lawsuit says.
Meanwhile, the assault case is tentatively set for trial this fall. Kasten maintains that he was badly injured in the alleged attack and that Irie repeatedly punched him in the head even after Kasten tried to withdraw from the confrontation.
Irie's attorney has countered that Kasten was intoxicated at the time and that any physical strike from Irie was in self-defense. No criminal charges were filed in connection with the incident, according to Kasten's lawyer.
The legal wrangling doesn't appear to have slowed Irie's schedule. He is slated to play at Rockwell in Miami Beach this Saturday.