I find myself in a conflicted state on this Monday following Tampa Bay Beer Week. By and large, I had a fantastic week. I drank some great beers, hung out with some excellent people, and enjoyed the events I attended. Including Hunahpu Day.
The reason I am conflicted is not over what happened Saturday’s event, but rather after. As the roar of anger and backlash began to build Saturday night, I had already left and gone home. I did not get my allotted bottles. I as mildly disappointed, but had spent the day drinking amazing beers and talking with old friends and new and generally having a great time. If you have been paying attention over the past 48 hours, the Hunahpu Day debacle has reach proportions of such asinine ridiculousness it is hard to put in to words.
I recognized early on that something was amiss when I saw the long line to get in. I figured something must be going wrong, and there were clearly more than the scheduled 3500 ticketed for the event. Even taking into consideration the brewery representatives, media folks, and volunteers, it was obviously way more than had been anticipated. So what went wrong? Well, that question will likely be debated ad nauseam. One thing we know is that there were duplicate tickets out there. And some people who hopped the gate. That means people lied and cheated and essentially stole to get in to this event. Period. If you were one of these people, or somehow facilitated this, shame on you. You are the problem. You are who ruined the day.
So with this immense crowd, clearly the staff was not ready for the over 6000 that crammed in. Half of whom should not have been there. Remember that. That resulted in longer lines to get beers, especially the “popular” ones. It meant longer lines for food. It meant being packed in like sardines, and a ridiculous number of lawn chairs camped out in the middle of the event. All because of the liars, cheats, and thieves.
It also meant that there were not enough bottles for everyone who was expecting them. In fact, the line was so long and packed in, some people were waiting over two hours, only to be turned away at the last minute. Because of the people who never should have been there.
Now, Cigar City shares some of the blame, to be sure. And they have absolutely stepped up and taken responsibility. There were some flaws in their planning, to be sure. In fact, their biggest mistake was assuming people would act like civilized and mature adults and do the right thing. They got taken advantage of and badly. While some people got their allotment of 3 bottle and left, others managed to acquire cases of the coveted beer. I don’t know how that happened, but I think between case sales opeing too early and the silver wristbands not being taken after the sales, the bottles simply disappeared. This led to some pretty stressed and upset CCB employees, including owner/founder Joey Redner who was visibly and understandably upset, especially when it became clear there were no more bottles and hundreds of people clamoring for them. All because of the liars, cheats, and thieves.
There have been plenty of stories posted on Facebook and twitter and blogs about alleged fights, threats, and other ugliness going on as the day wound down. Lots of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth about being “screwed” by Cigar City Brewing. And then the ridiculous people reared their heads, accusing CCB of deliberately selling too many tickets. Accusing them of hoarding and hiding additional bottles. Of lying to everyone about the number of tickets sold. And then one soft-brained schmuck even went so far as to post “Joey Redner = BUDWEISER!!” Really?! What does that even mean? A group of self-important malcontents even started a Facebook group for “people who got screwed on Hunahpu Day” and some have called for actually suing the brewery over the whole deal.
Since Saturday night, CCB has bent over backwards to try to make things right. From free beer Sunday in the taproom to refunding every ticket sold through Eventbrite and the promise for those who still have their wristbands to brew a new batch and make it available. They have done more than any business – not just brewery – than I have ever seen to try to do right by their fans and customers. And the final straw… no more Hunahpu Day. Joey’s press release today stated that he was done. It wasn’t worth it. It made him physically ill. From now on, Hunahpu will be released via distribution.
But that was not enough for some.
So let me say a few words to THOSE types of people.
You are the problem. Most likely, you are the ones who were chanting “Cigar City Sucks”. The ones getting physical in line. The ones who feel that they are owed something by the brewery and the fact that CCB wants to make money somehow makes them a sellout. One post in particular really sticks in my craw. I am not going to give him the pleasure of seeing his name on the screen, but he is a “quality control” person for Walmart. Read into that what you will. This waste of space accuses Joey and the team of no less than the following.
- Lying to customers about attendance. Sorry, jackass, there was no lying involved. There were jerks – probably friends of yours – that didn’t play by the rules.
- Ticket takers/beer servers/etc. that were unprofessional. Sorry that was your experience, but I found none of that to be true. Of course, I treated everyone nicely, so many you should try that.
- “Real” employees running around drunk instead of working. I am not even going to dignify that one.
He rambles on like the uninformed douche he is and ends with declaring pompously ” I could care less that it blew up in your face, I don’t feel sorry for you, I refuse to support a brewery that mislead 6000+ fans and refuses to take responsibility for it”. You know what Mr. Walmart Greeter? Good. Go away. The craft beer world does not need people like you. I don’t know how much more responsibility CCB needs to take. They have owned up to everything, apologized profusely (and probably more than than they needed to), and given just about everything back. To the people who are saying “well they aren’t really losing anything by returning the money we just gave them” clearly do not know how a business works, and that the over $200,000 that they have lost in this debacle was probably figured into their future planning costs. All that money also covers:
- staff time
- t-shirt costs
- glasses costs
- water bottles
- port-a-let rental
I do feel bad for the people who traveled from out of town, paid for a hotel room, meals, etc. and then didn’t get to participate. But traveling is a risky proposition and there is an implied understanding that things might not happen the way you want them to. If you fly down from Ohio to visit Disney World, and it rains the whole time you are here, are you going to sue Disney and ask them to refund your hotel and meals? Of course not. If you get inside the park and Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down just as you are about to get on after waiting in line for two hours, are you going to start a Facebook page about how Disney “screwed” you? Bad things happen. Plans sometimes go awry. And remember, had the rules been followed and everything gone according to plan, the day would have been fantastic for the legitimate attendees and the brewery alike.
People are going to continue to rant on and on about this for the coming weeks, for sure. Eventually, it will die down and people will (hopefully) let is go. I hate to see what this did to Joey and everyone at CCB. I can’t imagine he has gotten much sleep since Saturday, and I absolutely understand his decision to throw up his hands and say no more. I am hoping he reconsiders, and it is just a tied and frustrated response. I have been to every Hunahpu Day since the first one, and think it has the potential to be a fantastic event again.
So while CCB needs to figure out what went wrong on their end and how to address it, I think there is an onus placed on the craft beer community as well to take a good hard look inward. The bad stuff that happened was because a few thousand people lied, cheated, and stole their way in to an event that is supposed to bring the community together. They are the ones who deserve your scorn and vitriol. And if there were really that many, you probably know some of them. They are the ones who ruined the day, and quite possibly the future of the event itself.
I, for one, will always support Joey and Wayne and Cigar City Brewing. I consider them friends, and one of the main reasons craft beer has taken off in Tampa Bay and the state of Florida. I have always known them to do the right thing, even if it came at a cost. Joey is an upstanding guy and a smart businessman. He has always taken responsibility when things didn’t go well, and he has stepped up in a huge way this time as well.
I am going to go drink an Invasion Pale Ale now and finally take a deep breath.