It's been nearly three months since Sunset Junction was canceled, but most people still haven't gotten their refunds. Frustrated ticketholders are now taking steps to file a class-action lawsuit against the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, whose founder and organizer Michael McKinley has been AWOL since late August, when the festival's permit was denied by the city.
“I'm completely aggravated. It just isn't legal,” says Michelle Stimson, a tax law attorney and ticketholder who is spearheading the suit. (Stimson will not serve as counsel on the case). She announced her intentions on Sunset Junction's official Facebook page, and has since been joined by a handful of other prospective ticket-buyers.
She says those interested in joining the suit should contact her at MichelleMStimson@yahoo.com.
Sunset Junction organizers' failure to refund tickets has caused widespread consternation; the festival's Facebook page remains saturated with angry comments. Initially there was hope that prospective festival-goers would be reimbursed, when McKinley provided refunds to one hundred or so folks who bought tickets through Origami Vinyl or the Sunset Junction farmer's market.
However, the majority of passes were sold through Sunset Junction's website, and those buyers remain in the lurch. With prices ranging from $15-$25 each (VIP tickets were $100) and an average festival attendance of 100,000, misplaced funds could well amount to a million dollars.
“I want to know what happened to all that money,” Stimson says.
Sunset Junction organizers did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The office phone line was disconnected upon the festival's collapse; now, the line appears to be working but its voicemail has been full.
“It's weird that they don't respond to anyone,” says Carlos Nunez, a Reseda resident who is owed about $50 for two tickets he bought online. “It's just wrong, and people aren't just going to forget about it — especially not in this economy.”
Some people have been successful in getting refunds through their debit card companies. Vendor Carlos Guillen was owed $1400 by Sunset Junction for the deposit and rental fees he paid to run his smoothie stand at the festival, and was promised a refund by festival organizers. When it didn't pan out, he managed to get a refund from his debit card company — but only after pressing his bank for weeks. Guillen says he used a copy of his receipt and a copy of West Coast Sound's coverage of the cancelation and fallout as proof to get reimbursed.
Artists scheduled to play the festival continue to be owed money by the organization as well.
Unpaid debt, of course, was the reason for the festival's downfall in the first place. Organizers' nearly $400,000 in outstanding fees from previous years led to the denial of the festival's permit.
City officials could not be reached for comment. We will continue to keep you updated as this story develops.