Organizers and ticketholders say they have questions after Vaughan, Ont., pulled the plug on a popular Caribana concert at the last minute.
The city north of Toronto revoked the event's permit Saturday night, sending home thousands of ticketholders who had been waiting for the concert to start.
The event, Carnival Kingdom, had been running for seven years, and organizer SOS Fest Inc. said on social media that it had been sold out.
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT - On behalf of the SOS team, we would like to sincerely thank the city of Toronto & Vaughan, all surrounding areas and visitors from all across the globe. It is now official - CARNIVAL KINGDOM 2018 is now 100% sold out. It takes a lot of hard work and preparation but more than that ... it takes all of you. We are equally disappointed that many will not be able to attend, however we do promise to serve you bigger in 2019. If you did not secure an advance ticket, please know that there will be absolutely zero tickets sold at the door for this event. Please note that all patrons will require a ticket to gain access to the venue space. Thank You Sincerely, The SOS Team @SOSfestTO #SOSFest #TrustinSOS #SOSLife SWIPE ⬅ For Important Event Details
Ricardo Roe, legal representative for SOS, says organizers received a text message from Vaughan around 7:15 p.m. Saturday, stating their permit had been revoked.
In a statement Sunday afternoon on Twitter, Vaughan officials said the permit was pulled because the organizers had not complied with its terms.
City of Vaughan By-law and Compliance, Licensing and Permit Service staff revoked the permit of the Carnival Kingdom 2018 SOS Fest event after it was determined that organizers did not comply with the terms of the permit. 1/2— City of Vaughan (@City_of_Vaughan) August 5, 2018
In accordance with the City's Special Events By-law, both the decision to grant the permit and subsequent decision to revoke, were decisions made by staff and not directed by Mayor and Council. The City of Vaughan also received a number of public complaints about the event. 2/2— City of Vaughan (@City_of_Vaughan) August 5, 2018
Roe says the event was scheduled to start at 9 p.m. Major soca artists, including Trinidadian superstars Machel Montano, Destra, Fay Ann Lions and Bunji Garlin, were set to perform.
"We were shocked, a lot of people were in disbelief," said Roe, adding they were reaching out to ticketholders Sunday to give them refund information. Tickets cost between $35 and $95.
He said officials came to clear the area.
We regret to inform you that our event has been cancelled. Due to unforeseen circumstances we have been shut down. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience. We are currently working on rectifying the situation. We will be working on getting you updates shortly. Please note We have all our permits and everything.... This is the City of Vaughn's problem.
Statement On Behalf Of Carnival Kingdom - We will be issuing refunds in 72 hours. On behalf of the entire event staff and organizers, we wish to give some explanation on tonight's cancellation. The event had all of its permits in place and planning was priority throughout the process of presenting such an event. The permits were pulled by the city just 2 hours before doors opening. For reasons we don't know at this time fully. Every event executed has been complete with smooth process and professionalism. We will be giving updates on how and when people will be refunded. We ask all to be patient and trust in our integrity and history.
Roe said he was told there had been noise complaints from about six kilometres away following a concert at the same venue on Friday night.
"The people that were close by, and the surrounding areas, they didn't hear any music," said Roe, adding that the venue is in an industrial area and their team measures decibel levels to ensure they meet standards.
City officials said in a tweet the decision to revoke the permits was made by staff and it had received "a number" of public complaints about the event.
Roe said usually if a permit is violated, they would have the chance to pay a fine.
"I'm not sure why it was so heavy-handed ... it's millions of dollars," said Roe. "Everyone had been paid ... a lot of money went right out the door."
He said organizers are "distraught" about the cancellation and are still unsure exactly why the permits were revoked.
Ticketholders, stars unhappy about cancellation
Ticketholders took to social media Sunday and beyond to express their disappointment in the cancellation.
If #CarnivalKingdom got shut down cause of noise complaints from Rejouvernate that is laughable. It's an industrial area....who is complainin?! Also, Veld is taking place down the road right now. Oh. Ok.— Izabela (@MsEditorBela) August 5, 2018
My Freedom of Information request which will be sent to @City_of_Vaughan around cancellation of the #carnivalkingdom permit. @mbmayor best to instruct your council to retain all electronic communications made on city devices. In the meantime, #boycottVaughan pic.twitter.com/M7ft4XDcty— Winston Bharat (@WinstonBharatMD) August 5, 2018
10K people spent their money to come together to celebrate culture that is often relegated to the sidelines most of the year. #carnivalkingdom wasn't a party. It was a celebration of all that is the Caribbean. Canceling it with 1 hour notice shows we don't matter.— Brunch'alla (@diversemind) August 5, 2018
Performers Montano and Garlin shared their messages of support for the fans and event organizers:
Last night came as a big unfortunate surprise. As I was getting dressed to head to the venue we got a call from the promoter that the show had been cancelled because the venue permit had been revoked. I guess the word got out to the authorities that I was going to flatten the place!! 😔 But in seriousness, I'm truly saddened that I was not able to perform for the fans - I never miss a show and this one was not in my, or my team's, control. The show had sold out days in advance, a testament to the strength and excitement of the Soca and Caribbean community in Toronto. I love performing here and we were going to have a time together last night. I respect the work of the promoters @sosfestto; I have worked with them for years and know the level of dedication and love they have for our culture - and to their integrity, they are refunding everyone's monies for this slip up. And, Toronto, don't worry, this just means that I will have to come back, and with my full band and dancers to deliver the Soca Kingdom experience in full. I will not leave Toronto without a show for 2018. Wait for it... 🙏🏾❤🙏🏾 MM. #Repost @sosfestto ・・・ Statement On Behalf Of Carnival Kingdom - We will be issuing refunds in 72 hours. On behalf of the entire event staff and organizers, we wish to give some explanation on tonight's cancellation. The event had all of its permits in place and planning was priority throughout the process of presenting such an event. The permits were pulled by the city just 2 hours before doors opening. For reasons we don't know at this time fully. Every event executed has been complete with smooth process and professionalism. We will be giving updates on how and when people will be refunded. We ask all to be patient and trust in our integrity and history.
A lot of people been hitting us up through the night about the sudden cancellation of the main event that was supposed to happen in Vaughn by @sosfestto and we do hope sensible clarification comes to light from the city's side of things. A lot of people are still very angry and fingers are pointing everywhere but let's just slow for a moment and give thanks that we still have life to see another day. Refunds can comfort to a point but it still can't treat the hurt the Caribbean community feels right now as this is how we celebrate life on a whole but again let's all give thanks that we have life and we will overcome that pain and we a better outcome in the near future. All artistes were primed for this to really engage with the fans and I believe we are all sorry we couldn't see it happen due to matters beyond all our controls. Canada is still a very blessed place and one of my 3 top places in the world so this ain't gonna throw me off mission. See you soon again stage side Canada.
Justin Mohammad said he was in line to attend the event just before 9 p.m. with his family. A half-hour later, security came to tell them it was cancelled.
"People were getting anxious, they wanted to go in and start having a good time and enjoy the music and enjoy the weekend," he said, adding that security told them they didn't know why it was shut down.
Brandon Bacchus said he and a friend were driving into the parking lot when a police officer told them the event was cancelled.
"We were pretty upset," said Bacchus, 24, adding that he was excited to see the artists.
"It was handled terribly. I'm confused as to whether it was noise complaints, but an event as big as this, it shouldn't have been shut down on such short notice," he said.
Other cities offer to host event
Some on Twitter called for Vaughan mayor, Maurizio Bevilacqua, to provide further explanation for the event's cancellation, but Bevilacua had not commented at time of publish.
Politicians from nearby cities, including Hamilton and Brampton voiced their interest in relocating Carnival Kingdom to their municipalities in future:
Dear organizers of #CarnivalKingdom— Matthew Green (@MGreenWard3) August 6, 2018
I would happily help you relocate your event to @cityofhamilton
We're home to @FestofFriends @supercrawl and so much more here in #HamOnt
We ❤️ Arts.
We ❤️ Culture.
And most importantly we ❤️ the artists and organizers who create it. https://t.co/ZaQiAwgeNK
The City of Brampton could grow our economy through entertainment and I am interested in speaking with organizers with the view of moving the festival to #Brampton. #carnivalkingdom https://t.co/gCp2YHUe2X— Jermaine Chambers (@jermibers) August 6, 2018
With files from Lisa Yeung.
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