A last-minute licensing snafu forced a popular Charleston area food-and-drink festival to cancel its event just hours before it was scheduled to start, leaving ticket holders disappointed, confused and without access to pork products and rare whiskeys.
Organizers of Bacon and Bourbon said the State Law Enforcement Division on Saturday morning alerted them that the Charleston Area Convention Center’s liquor license did not extend to their evening event.
According to an email sent to ticket buyers by Rebecca Gosnell of Gosnell & Company Event Management, tickets will be honored on another date, and refunds will be issued to those who can’t attend the deferred bonanza.
“The options left were to host an alcohol-free event or reschedule. We have chosen to reschedule,” she wrote.
A spokesman for SLED confirmed that the application to sell alcohol at this event had been denied.
Bacon and Bourbon is a seven-years-running annual celebration of its titular vices. Tickets for this year's event ranged from a $75 general-admission pass all the way up to a $500 “Rare Bourbon Inquisitor” package, which offered opportunities to privately taste coveted brown liquors such as Pappy Van Winkle before the doors opened to the public at 7:30 p.m.
By Saturday, the general-admission tickets had sold out, and Gosnell said she had anticipated "hundreds and hundreds" of attendees. Eighteen chefs and 40 distilleries were scheduled to participate in the gathering, according to the event’s website, although only one of the seven micro-distilleries licensed in Charleston County was slated to pour.
In a phone interview, Gosnell said this was to be the second year the event would take place at the North Charleston meeting facility but the first time it had tried to operate under its license. In past years, the event’s charity partner has secured liquor licenses for the event.
Gosnell took responsibility for the cancellation, emphasizing it was not the convention center's fault.
"We thought we were all set until we got the call from SLED today," she said. "SLED called us this morning and said 'no.' "
The cancellation was a source of frustration for many attendees, some of whom had traveled to Charleston from out of state to partake in the gluttonous fun.
“We know sometimes things can't be helped, (but) this problem sound like poor management from the start,” said James McCauley of Sylvania, Ga. He had come to town with a group of 10 friends; each of them had purchased a $125 “preview” ticket.
“Five hotel rooms for two nights, plus alcohol and food so far,” said McCauley, listing the expenses his group incurred to attend their fourth Bacon and Bourbon event. “And now more money for food and alcohol tonight (to replace what) was going to be consumed at the event.”
Gosnell promised to announce a new date for Bacon and Bourbon by Friday.
McCauley hopes to be there. With the exception of this Bacon and Bourbon experience, "all of the ones we have been to have been great," he said.
The rescheduled event will live up to expectations, Gosnell says.
"I’m sick, I’m just sick," she said. “We will put it on again and we will make sure people love it. ... We're going to bend over backwards to make them feel whole again.”