Edmonton bar promoter Matthew McKnight, who is facing 13 charges of sexual assault, took the stand in his own defence Friday and denied allegations that he drugged women to take advantage of them.
McKnight has pleaded not guilty to all offences, which are alleged to have taken place between 2010 and 2016.
McKnight, 32, was employed by Urban Sparq at the time, a hospitality company that owns several bars in Edmonton and other cities.
He testified in Edmonton’s Court of Queen’s Bench that he held several positions with the company, including promotions manager at the now-closed Lucky 13.
McKnight told the court that he was promoted to the position of director of sales and marketing for all of the bars owned by Urban Sparq, and held that position from 2012 to 2016.
He testified that his duties during that time included providing promotional drinks to patrons.
“Marketing is about building the business,” McKnight said. “There’s no better way to show people that you appreciate them coming down then by buying them a drink.”
He told the court that he handed out up to 500 drinks on a busy night at Knoxville’s Tavern on Jasper Avenue, where he conducted most of his business.
Knoxville’s Tavern has since shut down.
McKnight said he offered drinks to many different patrons, including people who had large networks of friends, like student group leaders.
He testified that he also offered promotional drinks to attractive women, both for personal and professional reasons.
“It was a good icebreaker,” McKnight said. “If I felt there was a vibe, I would often ask for their number.”
He said that he typically offered them two to four drinks in a night.
When asked by his defence lawyer Dino Bottos if he ever gave a woman a drink laced with drugs, McKnight answered: “absolutely not.”
Six of the witnesses called by the Crown prosecutors in the first eight weeks of the trial testified that they suspected that McKnight had drugged them with GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyric acid.
Others testified that the accused had plied them with alcohol, to the point where they couldn’t recollect parts of the night.
Some of the complainants said they had blacked out and woke up to find McKnight having sex with them.
McKnight is expected to also take the stand on Monday, as his trial continues.