Orange County Fairgrounds officials canceled the second session of a weekend beer-tasting event because of "unruly" attendees earlier in the day, event organizers said Monday.
But in a prepared statement, fairgrounds officials countered that they shut down the Ultimate Beerfest OC session Saturday because its promoter and show manager, Karma Media Group, was not "readily responsive" to "operating deficiencies."
The deficiencies, officials said, were inadequate staffing levels at vendor booths and checkpoints, excessive consumption and not following necessary beverage-management protocols.
"Accordingly, OC Fair & Event Center management made a decision to cancel Session Two, due to Alcohol Beverage Control guideline considerations and patron safety concerns," according to the statement.
The Ultimate Beerfest OC, which purports to pair "regional craft brewers with craft beer lovers," was to be a fundraiser for Villa Chardonnay, a nonprofit horse rescue facility based in Temecula.
The first session went from about noon to 3 p.m. The second session was planned for 6 to 9 p.m.
By about 3:30 p.m., however, Karma Media Group notified the second session's would-be participants via email that it was canceled because of "attendee misconduct."
"We will work with you to resolve all your issues within the next few days," the email read. "We are very sorry! Please do not show up at the OC Fair & Event Center today! Thank you!"
Some people reportedly showed up for the second session anyway, saying they had not received the message. Many expressed their frustration afterward online. Fairgrounds officials said they handed out fliers at gate locations and broadcast the news using electronic signage.
An official posting on Ultimate Beerfest OC's Facebook page Monday afternoon said the session was canceled by order of the fairgrounds because of "the actions of some unruly Session 1 attendees."
[Updated, 1:27 p.m. Oct. 22: By Tuesday afternoon, a dedicated page set up to offer refunds said Ultimate Beerfest OC was shut down “by fairgrounds management due to violations by some Session 1 attendees who decided that tasting was not enough and a few breweries that supported this action by filling and passing out larger containers to consume beer.”
Multiple phone calls and email requests for comment from Karma Media Group were not returned Monday and Tuesday afternoon. The marketing agency’s Los Angeles voicemail line, which has a 949 area code, said, “We are working really hard to resolve all of your issues right now.”
Tickets bought through Karma Media Group within the last 30 days could receive a refund, according to the refund page at UltimateBeerfest.com. Those who bought more than 30 days ago cannot receive a refund, according to the website, but are eligible to receive a ticket to a rescheduled session, which will be at another venue.]
The event included food trucks and beer pong. About 20 vendors were there to serve beer samples.
Redondo Beach resident Lloyd Brown, who is behind CraftBeerGuy.com, wrote about the "good, the bad & the ugly" of the event on his website.
In an interview with the Daily Pilot, he said he had a "great time" but added that things got off to a late start. VIP pass holders, who were promised 11 a.m. entry, didn't get inside that early, Brown said.
"When I walked up, and I could see that breweries were still not set up, I could see that it was going to be a problem," he said.
Fairgrounds officials said health compliance issues were part of the delay.
Sharla Cagle and eight friends had VIP passes for the morning session but waited more than two hours and didn't get in until 12:30 p.m. The scene was chaotic, she said.
"It was very unorganized," Cagle said. "It was just a complete mess."
She said even with the delayed entry, people seemed pretty calm. She said she was surprised to hear that the second session was canceled because of a reportedly unruly crowd from the morning.
The only unruly thing, she said, might have been the people taking the beer pong cups to get samples, though some vendors wouldn't serve those people.
"I don't think it has anything to do with the attendees," Cagle said. "They just wanted to get in there, try their beers and get home."
Cagle said she and her friends don't plan to attend another Ultimate Beerfest put on by Karma Media Group.
Most such events offer taster cups holding 3 to 6 ounces, Brown said, though the Ultimate Beerfest gave out 2-ounce cups. Some people weren't using them, however.
"There were booths that were filling glassware," Brown said. "People started buying them and taking them to get them filled."
Other attendees also took the plastic cups from the beer pong area for their samples, he said.
"That's just not supposed to happen," Brown said. "Some of it was due to volunteers that didn't know better. Some was done by brewers that should've known better. To me, that's where the problem was."
Attendees were given punch cards that would mark how many beer samples they received, but vendors reportedly didn't have hole punchers, Cagle said.
Brown added that he didn't notice people "getting drunk, throwing up, stuff like that."
He estimated that 500 to 700 people showed up for the morning session.
Event organizers sold tickets for $50. VIP passes were $75.
Nearly 2,500 VIP tickets were also sold through LivingSocial.com for $35. These, according to the website, could be refunded should the event get canceled.
The next Ultimate Beerfest is scheduled for Nov. 23 at the Pasadena Convention Center. The Los Angeles Times, parent company of the Daily Pilot, is one of that event's sponsors.
Other events for 2014 are planned for San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose and San Diego, according to UltimateBeerfest.com.