Recently, a small group of friends and I met at a restaurant. I grimaced when I realized our table was near the piano bar. The cheesy music was annoying; we felt like we had to shout to each other. I strained to hear the server. One of our group said, "You know, I'd pay that guy to quit playing the piano." I was about to ask the waiter to seat us elsewhere.
But once our drinks arrived, one of our group wrote down a request for the piano player. Others followed. If the pianist was going to play and intrude on our dinner, we may as well pick out songs we want to hear. Our ears began to adapt, and we were able to carry on normal, even soulful, conversations.
Somehow, the alchemy of music, food and drinks took us to a new place. By evening's end, the piano player's tip jar was full, and we were exchanging phone numbers with him.
A similar thing happened on Saturday at the Utah Beer Fest, organized by City Weekly. Upon opening, many more converged upon the festival gate than we were set up to handle, creating long lines to get in. Once people got inside, there were long lines for the 3-ounce samples of beer. Some found the lines to be too much and left in disgust. Others angrily demanded refunds. Many tweeted and Facebooked their dismay.But as with the piano bar, the longer people stayed, the more they relaxed, and the more kick-ass the event became. Waves of spontaneous "festival" cheering erupted through the crowds. The 4 p.m. smiling faces were far different from the tense 2 p.m. faces. The beer offerings were diverse and thirst-quenching; the food was fresh and tasty; the bands were on the mark. And I'm sorry that some who came with high expectations left disappointed and missed out on that magical moment when it all starts to come together.
Those who know City Weekly know we take pride in our events. The hospitality of our founder John Saltas is legendary, as you'd discover if you were ever invited to his Big Fat Greek Orthodox Easter Dinner (which he and his wife prepare for 250 of their closest friends). So hearing that people were pissed is painful for both Saltas and our publisher, Jim Rizzi. It will be a point of honor for them to make it better next year. And those haters -- even those who judged it an "epic fail" -- will come back and give the beer fest another chance because it will be too good to miss.
Maybe even Salt Lake City Councilman Luke Garrott.
The District 4 councilman reportedly was among the first to demand a refund at the beer fest. Not content to take back his money and leave, he allegedly went out to those waiting in line and told them not to waste their time. He complained about City Weekly not being able to "deliver." Saltas overheard Garrott's remarks and confronted him, saying that City Weekly had in fact "delivered" 5,000 warm bodies to Garrott's downtown district on a weekend in September when often only tumbleweeds blow down the streets.
Saltas also took the opportunity to school Garrott in other ways City Weekly has "delivered": The paper relocated to Main Street at a time when most businesses were fleeing from it, and we remain here still, with our 40-plus employees spending their paychecks at restaurants, shops and bars all over downtown.
Saltas said he told Garrott that he might someday learn what it means for City Weekly to "not deliver."
Needless to say, Garrott blew an opportunity to exhibit both some class and leadership in a tough situation where his positive example would have gone a long way. It's curious that even though City Weekly was doing business with the City and had reserved the grounds at the City & County Building for the event, Garrott didn't see fit to include it in his own District 4 Update in which he promoted all the other local festivals and markets.
That, Luke, is an example of "not delivering."
Anyway, for those who left with their noses out of joint on Saturday, know that we heard you. We'll make it right. For all others, thanks for coming and proving that Utahns will support a brew fest. Apparently in large numbers. See you next time.