A Bay Area festival celebrating soul food and R&B music has turned into a debacle with wild allegations, including guests arguing over empty front row seats, security guards of security who left their posts and the emcee of the event who was banned from the stage for telling rude jokes, court. acquisition of documents.
These are just some of the claims made that organizers of the California Soul-Food Cookout and Festival are making in an $11 million federal lawsuit against the Alameda County Fairgrounds, a sprawling area in the city of Pleasanton. The fairgrounds, where the festival organizer paid to host the Sept. 17 to 18, 2022, event, allegedly made a series of broken promises and hurtful demands that cost the organizer millions and damaged its reputation enough to stop hosting events, according to in the suit. Currently, the case is winding through the courts and the legal filings describe a series of strange failures, like a local version of the famous 2017 Fyre Festival.
The disturbance began before the festival gates opened, according to the lawsuit. The fairgrounds provided organizers with a seating chart for the concert area that included four full front row sections, as well as a VIP seating area—no two of them. Without knowing this, the festival organizers sold the seats listed on the chart.
When the event began, the lawsuit further states, attendees streamed into the amphitheater only to find that the original front row seats they had purchased were nowhere to be found. It began a cutthroat game of musical chairs, as guests filled with reservations for non-existent spots took the next closest seats. The evicted owners of those seats then pushed other people out, creating a domino effect that spread to the rear.
The Alameda County Fairgrounds and its attorney in the case did not respond to a request for comment on the claims made in the lawsuit. An attorney for California Soul Food Cookout and Festival, Inc., also declined to comment.
Unsurprisingly, people arriving at the festival were upset to find others sitting in their seats and refusing to move. Some sought security guards to help resolve conflicts, but it soon became clear that the fairground failed to bring the number of security personnel it promised in the event contract, according to the lawsuit.
In addition, court documents claim, the security personnel were young and ineffective, and some even removed their uniforms and fled the venue.
While the rest of the security guards rushed to help resolve the seating issues, the venue’s gates were left unguarded, allowing guests without tickets to flood in, even more than the disputed seats, the organizers alleged. Meanwhile, no one checked the bags and at least one person entered with a weapon.
Festival staff also jumped in to curb the seating pandemonium, but their vending booths were empty. Two juice stands, a dessert stand, a fruit stand and the merchandise table were all unstaffed throughout the festival, according to the lawsuit. All the unsold items added up to a loss of over $1.2 million, the organizers estimated.
The empty vendor stood visibly upset with the audience.
“You should get more vendors next time. Every vendor there was at least an hour and a half or a 2 hour wait,” an Instagram user commented on a California Soul-Food Cookout post about the event.
In posts on the festival’s Facebook, some attendees complained that seating was a nightmare, musicians were hours late and the sound system was terrible.
“We all need our money back,” wrote one commenter. “I will never attend such unprofessional concerts like this again.
However, the event was not a total flop. Some social media commentators celebrated performances from singers Kevin Ross, Marsha Ambrosius and others.
Max Nuval, on the other hand, runs a pop up stand for the Max Alchemy barbeque restaurant he owns. He faced a confusing start to the festival when there was no security at the gate he reached for setup, leaving him waiting for over 30 minutes. Eventually, he went to another gate, though he wasn’t sure if it was his fault or the place’s.
But when he got up and running, Nuval said, things went smoothly. The pop-up restaurant was located in another section of the fair, away from the performances, so he didn’t see the commotion in the amphitheater itself.
“Everything is good on our side,” Nuval told The Standard.
You are too messed up to perform
Meanwhile, pandemonium in the amphitheater bleachers began to take the stage. Because there was no security guarding the backstage area, an intoxicated man entered and assaulted a backup dancer, the lawsuit said.
In the midst of it all, comedian and emcee Mario Hodge took the stage to crack jokes. But just an hour after the festival’s scheduled start, fairground staff asked Hodge to stop him from taking the microphone again, the suit said, because his profanity and mature material made VIPs uncomfortable. comfortable. The workers say that the order to muzzle Hodge came directly from the management of the fairground, and that if the festival does not comply, they will not be able to get permits in the area in the future.
The organizers then asked if Hodge could perform again as long as he committed to a curse-free set. They were told no.
Hodge declined to comment on the events of that day, citing ongoing litigation.
That conflict involved racial discrimination against Hodge and the festival in general, organizers said. The fairgrounds treated the comedian and the event in general differently because it was a celebration of Black culture, according to the lawsuit.
Other claims in the case include breach of contract and violation of free speech. Lawyers for the fairgrounds and the soul food festival are scheduled to hold a settlement conference in May 2024.