Bluesfest will not refund stallholders after festival cancellation

“I think it’s very high-handed. I think it’s very unethical too"

Byron Bay Bluesfest organisers have announced they will not refund stallholders, even after the festival was cancelled in March.

According to the ABC, small businesses who paid for stalls at the annual festival wrote a scathing letter to Bluesfest organisers, calling them “high-handed and selfish”.

However, an enforcing contract signed by all stallholders states Bluesfest “has no liability or obligation to refund their deposit or stall fees” due to a “force majeure” or unforeseen event.

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Roughly 100 stallholders – the majority of which are food vendors – will be affected by this outcome. While direct refunds will not be carried out, stallholders will be permitted to roll fees over to next year’s Bluesfest.

However, traders aren’t satisfied with this outcome. Their reaction is unsurprising, considering the current economic climate induced by coronavirus restrictions.

Owner of The Cajun Kitchen, Paul Briggs, estimated stallholders would lose around $10,000 to $15,000. “I think it’s very arrogant,” Briggs said of the binding clause.

“I think it’s very high-handed. I think it’s very unethical too. Bluesfest do have, arguably, the right of law through that clause… but at the same time, they are the only ones that are not supporting their stallholder community, which they are at pains to keep reminding us we are all a part of.”

Bluesfest festival director Peter Noble told the ABC the festival did not “have the money available” to refund stallholders. “I feel sorry for the stallholders,” he said.

“If I had an alternative, I’d do it. I don’t have an alternative.”

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Noble also said that he had every intention of hosting Bluesfest 2021, but he was not “Buddha, Muhammed or Jesus”, and could not confirm its return at present.

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