Vegan Block Party, held at Regatta Park in Coconut Grove this past Saturday, October 6, was supposed to be a plant-based gathering filled with fun, entertainment, and swag.
Complaints mostly center on the fact that people paid for their tickets, waited in long lines, did not receive swag bags or received very little in their swag bags, and/or did not receive free food samples.
Attendees have posted their experiences on Vegan Block Party's Instagram page, where they've mentioned long waits at check-in and to receive goodie bags, and up to a two-hour line at one of the food trucks.
"I had a sample of cashew cheese... That was it. We were starving so we left closer to where I parked about three-quarters of a mile away and got something to eat there.
"This event was a huge disappointment. Parking was a nightmare. There was zero organization. The lines were ridiculous and the bag of "goodies" ran out by the time my friends got there (even though the bag was also a disappointment) No direction from management, when we asked a simple question to a volunteer their response was "I don't know, I'm just a volunteer". Worst of all, the event was open, many just came and hung out and ate...which is how it should have been FREE and OPEN to the public NOT charge $20. We would like a refund please."
Katherine Corona of Miami, age 29, attended the event with her husband. “We purchased the tickets,” Corona says. “We thought this was a private event, but when we arrived at the location, it was in an open park with no barricades.”
Corona says she and her husband arrived around 7 p.m. The gift bags were gone, and they did not receive any free food samples. Her experience was mirrored by others.
“We proceeded to go on Instagram and on Facebook and posted comments because we were really excited to go there, and we kind of felt like we are scammed,” Corona says. “If I pay $20 and anyone can just walk in, what am I paying for?”
New Times' preview of the event included an interview with the event founder and coordinator, Ariel Levine, who stated ticket prices included food samples and a swag bag containing more than $100 worth of goodies.
“Everything I said was 100 percent true,” Levine said in a phone interview after the event. But this time, she added, “Swag bags are while supplies last.”
Levine says that as of October 1, she had sold only 480 tickets but had enough swag for 1,000 bags. She says the actual attendance was 1,600 people, so there weren't enough bags. And that attendance number does not include people who showed up without tickets.
“This was not a free event,” Levine says. “The majority of people had a ticket, and we had cops that were supposed to be checking for wristbands, and vendors were not supposed to be selling or giving samples to people without a wristband.”
Tasha Dixon, of Soy Candles by Tasha, was one of those vendors. “[Levine] told me in an email, but it was so busy I wasn’t even looking,” Dixon says of the wristbands. “It’s bad for the people who paid to get in because other people just walked right in.”
In her initial interview with New Times, Levine said the gift bags would include free soap, and Dixon says she was the only soap vendor at the event. “I would have made free samples to go with my business card like I do with other vendors,” Dixon says. “She never asked me for samples.”
Even with the mixups, Dixon considers the party a success. “I loved the event,” she says. “This was my highest-grossing event that I’ve ever been to.”
Levine admits to making mistakes and says she should have had the event fenced off and secured more swag. “When we spoke, I was faking it until I made it,” Levine says of her initial interview with New Times. “I had sold probably 200 to 220 tickets at that point. People showed up last minute.”
Levine says she will not issue any refunds but will donate profits from the event to a charity that will be determined by a social media poll.
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Corona says she and others have filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Protection of Miami-Dade County. She wishes it had not come to that. “Just a simple ‘I’m sorry’ and not deleting my comments on social media would have been enough,” Corona says.
Levine says the vast majority of feedback has been positive, and she considers the event an overall success. “Animals got adopted and don’t need to go back to a metal cage and now have a loving home,” she says. “Anyone who is vegan knows how isolating it can be to feel like you are one person in a nonvegan world. While it had its downfalls, this event brought people together.”
Levine has posted a public statement on Instagram and Facebook:
VEGAN BLOCK PARTY started with a vision to make a difference in the world by way of the vegan movement.
As a 20 year old that dropped a semester of college to pursue this venture, I am in shock, disbelief, and absolute awe of everyone who partook and attended this event.
Vendors set up shop and sold thousands of Plant Based meals, products, and packaged goods. Not only did many sell out by the end of the night, but most of these local vegan businesses made their debut.
You all supported a 9 year old entrepreneur who just started his very own hot dog cart, enabled a vendor to make enough profit to buy food for her family for a month after she quit her job to start a vegan business, and in general helped ALL these small vegan businesses continue doing what enables them to raise awareness around this conscious lifestyle.
Miami-Dade Animal Services found LOVING HOMES for several animals that would’ve otherwise gone back to a metal shelter cage.
There were huge audiences that learned SO much at the speaker stage from the incredible speakers and panels that went down.
People ate, drank, and connected with like-minded individuals on a perfect night in Miami.
Unfortunately, hosting events in a city like Miami is not easy or cheap.
The $20 was to get in, which covers expenses related to renting the park, getting permits, licenses, and other factors that go into producing an event such as renting a bathroom, sanitation, security, etc.
The $20 entry to VBP would have remained REGARDLESS of Swag Bag or not in order to cover these costs. Activities, speakers, and access to incredible brands were included with the ticket aside from the bags.
We understand that this is a lot of money for some, so we offered Swag Bags as a “thank you” to our attendees. However, we clearly stated on all ticket selling platforms that they were available while supplies last.
While we realize the frustration along with not enough Swag Bags, long lines, and no perimeter fencing, there needs to be an understanding that this event was put together on a minimal budget with no corporate monetary sponsorship- only personal savings.
There was no corporate incentive to only profit. The reality is there were no funds to pay for the massive expense of a fence for the perimeter and other missing features.
On Monday (10/1), we had sold 480 tickets, so we thought the 1000 Swag Bags & thousands of samples would be more than enough. In the 2 days leading up to the event day, ticket sales more than doubled unexpectedly. We were unprepared for the crowd that ensued, and we recognize that.
However, we clearly wrote everything was “While supplies last” in the chance that this situation would happen.
At this time, we are unable to issue refunds due to not knowing who received a Swag Bag and who did not.
Instead, we will donate a portion of proceeds from sales to a local animal shelter or rescue, with proof of receipt.
We hope that as conscious-minded, compassionate people, you realize that the money requesting to be refunded is going directly to a charitable cause.
This is a tricky situation to deal with, but we believe this is the best solution. For every 100 positive comments about the event, there are 1-2 negatives. We want those people to know that we SEE you, we HEAR you, and we will do BETTER!
Thank you for coming and supporting local vegan businesses, speakers, activities, and more. Any additional comments or concerns can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org