Police issue warning for Burbank ‘car meet-up’ known for drawing thousands

Darin Ryburn of the Burbank Police Department talks to a reporter during the 2013 car meet-up at the Empire Center. Police are beefing up their presence at this year's gathering.

Darin Ryburn of the Burbank Police Department talks to a reporter during the 2013 car meet-up at the Empire Center. Police are beefing up their presence at this year’s gathering.

(Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

The Krispy Kreme Tuesday Facebook group promotes a casual gathering at the Burbank Empire Center, where car enthusiasts can “chillax have some donuts have some panda express look at all the rides and meet some people.”

But after past meet-ups in the shopping center’s vast parking lot drew thousands of people and cars, the Burbank Police Department on Saturday announced its intention to beef up police presence at Tuesday’s nighttime gathering.

The news release acknowledges “the rights of individuals to peacefully and lawfully assemble” but added that officers will be “fully deployed” to enforce all laws, including illegal engine and vehicle modifications.


“Mass gatherings like the one planned can create a public nuisance, disturb the peace and adversely impact the safe and efficient flow of traffic,” the release said.

The event’s organizer, who goes by Jeremy Lee in the car community but asked to withhold his name because he worried about losing his job and drawing retaliation from local business owners, said the city of Burbank sent him a letter Saturday threatening to sue him to recoup additional public funds used if the event proceeded. But it’s too late to stop the event, he said.

“At this point, even if I told people not to go, they’d still go,” Jeremy Lee said.

The letter calls the event a public nuisance that creates gridlock that lasts for up to six hours and requires a large police response. Burbank City Atty. Amy Albano did not return calls for comment Saturday night.

Krispy Kreme has made its own preparations for the meet-up. Despite a 30% jump in sales at the last event, the Krispy Kreme store in the shopping center will be closed that day, according to a supervisor at the store reached by telephone. Calls to Krispy Kreme’s corporate office were not returned Saturday night.

Most of the 40 other stores at the center will remain open. But Kiri Meas, general manager of the nearby Panda Express, says she’s dreading the event. Past car meet-ups have involved clogged bathrooms, trashed dining rooms and lots of drunk customers.

“Black Friday I can handle, but this is much worse,” Meas said. “We got so scared last time.”

The last meet-up in August 2013 was supposed to be the last of its kind. Police issued more than 100 citations, made two arrests and closed the parking lot to vehicles by mid-evening. Another meet-up at the Burbank shopping center in 2012 drew an estimated 1,000 people.

This time, the meet-up’s organizers have made some attempt to manage the chaos. The description of the event on Facebook encourages participants to “leave the street mind at home” Other rules include no burnouts, no revving, no racing, no fighting, no littering and no “hating.”

“Please follow the rules because this meet reflects all of us and you to media and authorities,” the description reads.

The meet-ups in the shopping center parking lot date to 2007, said Jeremy Lee. It started with 16 cars and eventually grew to thousands. He chose the Burbank Empire Center because of the large lot, and because most of the stores — besides Krispy Kreme and Panda Express — closed by the time the meet-ups began.

He has tried to make the event as peaceful as possible, even threatening to publicize the license plates and personal information of rowdy drivers. But he can’t control the culture himself, said Jeremy Lee, a car enthusiast who used to live in Burbank.

“We just take [the citations] and keep doing us,” Jeremy Lee said.

Twitter: @frankshyong

Times Community News reporter Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.