View more photos in the Oktoberfest slideshow.
When the air becomes crisp and the summer turns to fall, Germans host a raucous event as a gateway to season change: Oktoberfest. The mere mention of Oktoberfest conjures up images of sauerkraut and sausages, beer maids shuttling steins overflowing with Hefeweizen, and tuba players oom-pahing the buttons off their lederhosen.
But at L.A.'s inaugural Oktoberfest on Saturday, the scene was different: long lines and scanty food, fratty red cups strewn on the asphalt and police cars, all in a stark parking lot outside of L.A. Mart. And then there's the kicker, the amber ocean of beer that breathes boozy life into Oktoberfests was merely a trickle. Although L.A.'s Oktoberfest did provide sexy aerial frauleins and a polka explosion by the German-American Brass Band of Southern California (featuring 90-year-old, founding member Hans Schmeizer), the event failed to deliver on many promises. And did we mention, the beer and food megafail?
The Red Lion or even the Over the Top" Vegan Oktoberfest (and arm-wrestling competition) at the Verdugo bar provide better beer and 'kraut (especially Hot Knives' home-stewed, btw). The event promised glass steins to ticketholders (with tickets ranging from $15 to $100 for VIP), but according to festival goer, David Jimenez, things went awry when the beer stopped flowing. "They have to have more glasses for the event to work next year," Jimenez said.
The Beer Pong Tournament was canceled, and many booths closed shop early. Message boards at foodie sites Yelp and Chowhound have become sounding boards for dissatisfied customers who complained of wait times of up to 3 hours, and inadequate access to food, beer, and bathrooms.
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Alan Semsar, spokesperson for festival organizers, Barcelona, said that ticket fraud led to the shortage of beer steins. "We sold 1400 tickets and ordered 2000 steins, but by around 4:15, we were completely out of steins."
At that point, Semsar said, they began to pull the plug on the event. "We don't know who they are how they did it. We printed our tickets on a certain color of paper, and people showed up with tickets of other colors. We knew that something was wrong." (Squid Ink spoke with Semsar, this morning, and he said that he is meeting with police investigators this afternoon, to find out where the fraud occurred. More updates to come.)
Around 5 p.m. Saturday the police showed up to the L.A. Mart, due to an incident with some city officials (Semsar says it was either the health inspector or fire marshal) who were allegedly hit with food by a disgruntled festival goer. "That's when they called the police," Semsar said. The mini-battalion of police cars (approximately 6 squad cars) rolled up to the entrance and began closing booths and ushering people out. The police were not unprofessional, but the blockade gave a somewhat East German feel to the event. With the officers moving out the more-than-miffed crowds, we walked past tumbleweeds of trash, drunken maidens at the Jager booth, and the police blockade, to meet a man standing behind some shrubbery who waved with one hand while unleashing a serious piss on the street.
"Thanks for coming, see ya next year," he said with a sarcastic laugh. My sentiments exactly.