Commentary regarding Houston Beer Fest (11-M06-1)

Once again, an event I promoted here has fallen short of even rather generous event planning and organizing standards. For those who have not read these posts (both by Katharine Shilcutt, food editor for the Houston Press):

Some of the summarized highlights in case these posts should disappear:

  • The venue was way oversold: there is dispute over how many tickets were actually sold, but somehow, “nearly 20,000 people” were admitted to a venue that could only support 12,000.
  • There are suspected violations of TABC regulations regarding ticket sales, specifically VIP tickets promising “all you can drink” beer in violation of TABC administrative rule §45.103.
  • The organizers executed inexcusably poor post-event handling of public relations and social media, creating a Facebook group which essentially bashes the event (entitled “I hate the Houston Beer Fest”), and taking the festival’s Twitter account private. There is no good reason to do either of these.

I did, unintentionally, omit the Houston Beer Fest from the Weekly LOVIEE; in retrospect, with how the event turned out, it’s just as well. It was, however, mentioned in the Monthly LOVIEE. I normally reserve the Monthly LOVIEE for more prominent and special events.

Let me step back a bit and explain how I choose events to promote on this blog, and the rather generous standards I set for organizers of those events.

I do not always plan to attend every event I mention in a LOVIEE. Often, I simply do not have the budget. Most events I post are events I would attend if I had no limits on time or finances. There is a hierarchy to the events featured here; those events featured only in a Weekly LOVIEE are the first tier; those events mentioned in the Monthly LOVIEE are the next higher tier; and there are a few events I consider worthy months in advance in an On The Horizon post (which implies inclusion at the Monthly LOVIEE level for the month in which the event takes place).

Overall, I do expect the events in the LOVIEEs to live up to the tagline “The best of Houston’s arts, events, and happenings.” While it is the goal, I don’t expect every single event to be executed flawlessly. Things will go wrong at events and not all of them are in control of the event organizers or the venue management.

I do expect event organizers to get the basics right. The first of those basics is: don’t oversell one’s venue capacity. If it’s an outdoor venue that can support 12,000, don’t sell or give away more than that many tickets. As an event organizer myself (not that I’d feel confident enough to organize an event this large anytime soon), I’d feel much more comfortable capping total tickets at 11,000 to 11,500 to provide some margin for error.

The second of those basics is: obey the law. (This includes administrative rules such as those of the TABC.) If the laws that one’s event are subject to are unknown, one should consult legal counsel.

There are others of course. But if an event’s organizers get these two wrong, it’s inviting disaster. And disaster, in this case, is exactly what we got.

With that, I will officially state in as many words I regret promoting the Houston Beer Fest on Quinn’s Big City. If you attended based on my promotion of the event and did not enjoy it, I’m sorry. Had I known in advance the event would be executed this poorly, I would not have mentioned it on the site at all. In fact, I am considering disqualifying the Houston Beer Fest from future promotion on the site.

This is not a step I take lightly. I value my reputation as the editor of this blog, and I will not allow my reputation and that of Quinn’s Big City, the site, to be thusly tarnished. Henceforth, Quinn’s Big City does not knowingly promote events that do not comply with the law, nor those organized in an incompetent manner.