San Diego's Best Coast Beer Festival Accused Of Ignoring Refund Requests Despite Receiving $65,000 San Diego Tourism Grant

April 29, 2020

The 2020 Best Coast Beer Festival and associated Best Coast Brunch Bash were scheduled to take place in late March, but COVID-19 coronavirus precautions caused them to reschedule the events to what was to be Comic-Con Weekend this July. Now many ticket purchasers are complaining that they are not receiving a promised refund despite organizers receiving a $65,000 grant from the San Diego Tourism Marketing District. Organizers also continue selling tickets to a "virtual" beer festival on May 9.

This year's 6th annual Best Coast Beer Festival was scheduled to take place at the Embarcadero Marina Park North on Saturday, March 21, 2020, with an inaugural Best Coast Brunch Bash set to take place the following day in Liberty Station, but amid growing concerns surrounding the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, both events were rescheduled to July 25 & 26, 2020. In the initial cancellation announcement, organizers stated that they would be "offering refunds for any ticket purchasers who cannot attend the new date," but we received information from several patrons stating that emails requesting a refund went unanswered and restitution was never paid. [UPDATE: following the initial publishing of this article, several of the below individuals confirmed receiving a refund.]

Best Coast Beer Fest organizers Erik & Amy Ulkutekin
"When I first heard about the cancellation I immediately sent them an email asking for a refund," said Best Coast Beer Fest 2020 ticket purchaser Karla Davenport. "Then I sent a follow up email because I was not going to be able to make their new rescheduled date. One of the emails they sent clearly stated if you’re unable to make the new date we will give you a refund. I’ve emailed them a couple of more times after that and have not heard from them until I disputed the charge from my bank. Upon disputing the charge from my bank about a week later I get an email from their accounting department stating why I was disputing the charge that it probably is a mistake on my part and contact my bank or to let them know why. So I sent that department another email telling them I am not able to make a new date and I would like a refund like they had promised. I still have not heard from them or my bank. I disputed the charge with my bank about two weeks ago. My bank states they are still researching the claim."

"It's been terrible," messaged Best Coast Beer Fest 2020 ticket purchaser Jaylen Ross. "The last message I received was an automatic reply saying they wouldn't be responding to the email until they had 'concrete details' and that was 3 weeks ago. I recieved this email on March 12, responded the same day fairly quickly as I knew the July date wouldn't work for me. I followed up a week later, and then again April 3rd. That's when I received the automated response. I would say the lack of information and communication from them has been the most frustrating thing. I understand that there's a lot of uncertainty about events and things, but I don't like to be made to feel like I don't matter and my voice is unheard."

Negative comments have been piling up on Best Coast
Beer Fest's social media
"Unfortunately, my experience has been terrible," wrote Best Coast Beer Fest 2020 ticket purchaser Andrea R. "I received an email with specific instructions on how to reply and ask for my would take up to 10 days and to please be patient. They also gave out a specific email on the Facebook event page to do the same... a week went by, nothing... I think it was at week two that I sent another email to see the status of my refund and I was greeted with a automated response saying that they were no longer sure of the status or dates of refunds... they took down all the refund info on their event page and there is no other way to contact them."

We contacted organizers Amy & Erik Ulkutekin last week requesting information as to why ticket purchasers were not receiving refunds nor responses to requests. Following our outreach, Best Coast Beer Festival sent out its first email to purchasers in over a month. In it, the company did not offer any refunds. Rather, ticket purchasers were now offered tickets to the May 9 "virtual" event (for the first time), the option to donate tickets to alleged charity partner Cuck Fancer, or the ability to roll tickets over to a future event. Many ticket purchasers remain upset by the event backtracking on its promise to pay refunds, and comments and posts are actively being removed from the company's social media pages. Being that they supplied substantial funding for the festival, we reached out to the San Diego Tourism Authority about the organizers decision not to offer refunds.

"The decision to refund would be up the individual event producer," responded Colleen Anderson, Executive Director of the San Diego Tourism Marketing District. "Best Coast Beer Fest fulfilled its marketing obligations for the 2020 event in accordance with their SDTMD contract. As such, SDTMD will not seek any return of funds."

We asked San Diego Tourism Marketing District Executive Director Colleen Anderson to see a copy of the contract in place with Best Coast Beer Festival so we could see a breakdown of how the $65,000 grant was to be used. The request was treated as a Public Records Request and we received the 157 page document wherein Best Coast claimed to be the "largest beer festival in San Diego" having three full time event producers working year-round. They were also required to obtain insurance. Below is the Budget Summary:

California Governor Gavin Newsom indicated earlier this month that he did not believe mass gatherings would be permitted in the foreseeable future. Following that announcement, some of San Diego's top summer events announced their cancellation, including San Diego County Fair, San Diego Pride, and Comic-Con International San Diego. Best Coast Beer Fest still has not announced the cancellation of their July events. We received information from other media members that event organizers worked in some capacity with local public relations firm Alternative Strategies to assist in promoting this year's incarnation. Despite working with Alternative Strategies for numerous years in the past, we at SanDiegoVille did not receive any outreach whatsoever from them regarding the 2020 Best Coast Beer Festival.

After an initial response on the company's Facebook Page by someone claiming to be founder Ben Teller, we emailed Best Coast Beer Fest's reported charity partner Cuck Fancer asking for information  on how much money has been donated by event organizers over the last years. Ben did not respond to our email and stopped responding on his charity's Facebook Page. An exempt organization is required to make an array of documents available for public inspection. We informed Cuck Fancer, an alleged 501(c)(3) charity, of this but still have not received a response.

Following the publishing of this article, an email was sent by Best Coast Beer Festival on May 1, stating "regrettably we cannot offer refunds."

A look at Best Coast Beer Fest's most recent Yelp reviews.

This is a developing story: We will update this post as we learn more.