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Crowne Plaza Hotel Cancels This Weekend's Arizona 420 Festival, Cites Payment Default

Attendees of last year's Arizona 420 Festival.
Attendees of last year's Arizona 420 Festival.
Benjamin Leatherman

Sorry to harsh your mellow, stoners, but we've got some bad news. If you were planning to attend the three-day Arizona 420 Festival this weekend at the Crowne Plaza Hotel -- including seeing Fishbone or any of the four dozen other acts booked to play the event -- said plans may have gone up in smoke Thursday night.

News broke Thursday that hotel management has canceled the marijuana-friendly festival less than 24 hours before its scheduled kickoff Friday due to an alleged "breach of contract" and "payment default" on the part of the festival's promoter.

In a press release sent out Thursday announcing the 420 festival's cancellation, Crowne Plaza general manger Adam Stanchina lays out several claims against CJ Johnson of E-Concert Live, the company that has organized the event the past several years. That includes alleging that the promoter was remiss in paying certain fees to the hotel, which apparently caused the hotel to pull the plug.

"Our efforts up to the last minute to collect contractually required payments from the promoter, [CJ Johnson] were not successful as late as this afternoon well past all deadlines, forcing the hotel with no choice but to terminate the agreement," Stanchina says in the release. "We are disappointed, and certainly hope this regrettable action caused by the promoter creates minimal inconvenience to any guests who may have been planning to attend the event."

"The simple fact is that Mr. Johnson failed repeatedly to meet his obligations to make scheduled payments for us to host this event as very clearly stated in the agreement. "

We've heard a few unconfirmed rumors that the issue may not be as one-sided as hotel management is claiming.

Messages to Johnson from New Times seeking comment on the matter -- or, frankly, for his side of the story -- had not been returned as of this writing.

A source with E-Concert Live stated that they're attempting to find a new venue for the festival, which typically includes a slew of performances by reggae, hip-hop, and rock acts, as well as an enormous amount of vendors and dispensaries selling their wares.

UPDATE:

Johnson sent a lengthy message to New Times via Facebook early this morning regarding E-Concert Live's side of the story, which you can read after the jump.

 

We signed the contract in early February for the event, we wanted to sale tickets and have the hotel sale the rooms but the hotel told us they could not do it that way and make sure that guest had tickets prior to getting their room so they made us block out the entire hotel. We expressed then it would be harder to do it like that so we would need cooperation from the hotel to send people where to get tickets and they agreed to give us their full support. So we agreed and they sent us their standard group agreement and we started promoting the event and selling rooms and tickets.

As the month went by I started to noticed we had little to no room sales going on and it started bothering me but we kept moving forward. About February 20th I received a call from one of our "few" vendors asking me if i know a hotel close to the expo cause we were sold out. I ask him "we are sold out? I don't think so." I said and he said "I called the hotel and reservations said the hotel was sold out and no room were available". After we spoke I called the hotel my self and asked for reservations then asked "can I book a room for April 18th through the 20th?" and the Lady told me "O, I'm sorry sir... those dates are completely sold out".

The very next day I contacted [Tiffany Rondell, the hotel's meetings director] and alerted her about my findings and she said "she would see what she could do" and ended the call. two day later I called and got the same answer. After a few more days several people we asked called (20+) and got the same answers. So I called and told Tiffany that using the words "Sold out" is causing damage to our sales and they must fix it. They told me "we cant send notes of information to our reservation centers but if someone calls the hotel and ask the front desk they will tell them where to go" (when you call the hotel they ask "how can I direct your call" most people will ask for room reservations).

After hearing that I want to the next highest up to Heather and she told me that they would get info up on their website and had me send all the artwork but after another 8 or so days emailed me to tell me that Adam [Stanchina, the hotel's general manager] denied any attachment or information placed for our event. So Josh [Irino, also of E-Concert Live] and I agreed that we should consider canceling the event if the hotel would not help or change what was being said and I called a meeting with the hotel. when I meet with them the next day it was Adam, Tiffany, and Shy I told them that due to the damage and people making other plans or buying rooms at near by hotels we may not be able to have it.

The GM Adam started telling me how they ordered food and liquor and employees and it was 10's of thousands of dollars and if we cancel who will pay for it that they will just take us to litigation so out of threat we continued. By the end of March our room sales where at about 18% of the hotel, so I called Heather and begged they do something so they finally offered to open rooms up and sale them at our group rate and also agreed to not let guest check in until they had tickets. It took only 3 days for the reservation department to get all the event information only 3 days from our event. so we kept going and sales started picking up.

Day before yesterday I was gathering up list and sending them off when I was informed by two of "our" contracted companies that Adam was calling and telling them that the event was canceled. We never knew nor was giving anything in writing prior to this and not even until after the news aired tonight did we event get a letter as the contract states. They had both Josh (just after chemo) and my self trespassed from the property and canceled the event. more then 100 companies are involved including political parties and education, 10's of thousands of dollars invested by us and other are at a complete loss, not [sold] out...

As of this update, It also appears that Johnson and others from E-Concert Live haven't been able to find a new home for the festival, so the cancellation will apparently stick.

Writer Jeff Moses contributed to this report.


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