HOUSTON - R&B fans across the country say they are devastated. They thought they'd be enjoying a music festival in the Dominican Republic this week.
Instead, Solfest 2023 in Punta Cana was abruptly canceled. Many ticket holders fear they're out thousands of dollars and say they can't get answers.
"I was really looking forward to it. New Edition is my favorite group," said Tiffany Burks.
Headliners scheduled for Solfest 2023 in Punta Cana included New Edition, Jodeci, Ludacris, Ashanti, and Anthony Hamilton, according to the event website.
Fans were packed and ready to go. Then suddenly, said ticket holder Tiffany Burks, "We got an email Saturday, and we were to leave on Monday.
"We regret to inform you the event has been canceled," recited ticket holder Janice Bradley. "My heart dropped. I was like, 'Oh my freaking God.' What happened?"
The Hard Rock Hotel in Punta Cana, where the event was to be held, also posted a notice on its website that the event was canceled due to non-payment by organizers, and offered ticket holders rooms at a discounted rate.
Fans say they shelled out thousands of dollars for tickets, hotel rooms, and flights, not to mention made vacation plans.
"I have a 16-year-old daughter, so I had to make arrangements for her, then we all took off from our jobs, re-arranged our schedules," said customer Shantell Washington-Wallace.
"They basically stated there were no refunds, that we were just basically out of the money, or we could transfer to another event they were having," said Chastity Boudreaux.
Many customers say their calls and emails to the promoter, Music Getaways, have gone unanswered.
"I think we deserve a refund and an explanation as to why or how this happened," said Nicole Webb.
"My biggest concern is not getting my money back at all," said Bradley.
We contacted Music Getaways, which sent us a statement reading, "The hotel decided to change the terms of the agreement at the last minute, leaving MG no room to react or to comply."
But Hard Rock International sent us a statement responding, "The hotel afforded the event promoters every opportunity to comply with their contractually mandated requirements, however, the promoter ... refused to make the payments required under their agreements. ... We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience."
The Better Business Bureau had already given Music Getaways an "F" rating before this debacle.
"Complaints that we have are people that have placed down deposits for events for one reason or another they get canceled," said Better Business Bureau President Steve McFarland. "This particular firm has a no-refund policy. So you’re not going to get your money back, you need to use it for some later event in the future. Maybe you don’t want to go to another event."
Music Getaways's statement says it asks customers to reach out to reschedule their vacations at 125% of the value, and that they are "working with our strategic partners to provide a sustainable 'refund process.'"
But customers we spoke with say they wouldn't trust Music Getaways to book another trip.
McFarland at the Better Business Bureau says customers can also seek refunds by disputing the charge with their bank or credit card company, going to small claims court, filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, or filing complaints with the California Attorney General and your local District Attorney's office.
Before booking a destination festival, consumers can check out the promoter with the Better Business Bureau and the United States Tourism Operators Association.
The following is Music Getaways' full statement:
"TO OUR VALUED CUSTOMERS. WE DEEPLY REGRET THAT THIS FESTIVAL HAS BEEN CANCELED BY THE HARD ROCK PUNTA CANA, NOT MUSIC GETAWAYS. MUSIC GETAWAYS HAD AN AGREEMENT WITH THE HARD ROCK, BUT THE HOTEL DECIDED TO CHANGE THE TERMS OF THE AGREEMENT AT THE LAST MINUTE, LEAVING MG NO ROOM TO REACT OR TO COMPLY. THE HOTEL SAID THAT IF MG DID NOT FOLLOW THE NEW AGREEMENT THEY WOULD SHUT DOWN SOLFEST PUNTA CANA & SOL COMEDY JAM….AND THAT’S UNFORTUNATELY WHAT THEY DID. THIS ALL CAME ABOUT EXTREMELY SUDDENLY, WITHIN DAYS OF THE FESTIVAL. THIS WAS OUT OF MUSIC GETAWAYS CONTROL. WE WERE UNABLE TO SPEAK OUR TRUTH, AS WE WERE UNDER DURESS FROM THE HOTEL IN PUNTA CANA. AND, THE TRUTH IS, WE WANTED TO GET EVERYONE HOME SAFELY, BEFORE SAYING ANYTHING.
WE ARE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF RESPONDING TO CUSTOMERS AND RE-SCHEDULING YOUR VACATIONS. IF YOU HAVE NOT REACHED OUT TO OUR BOX OFFICE YET, PLEASE DO SO BY EMAILING BOXOFFICE@MUSICGETAWAYS.COM
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE NOT AWARE, WHEN YOU RESCHEDULE YOUR PACKAGE, WE ARE OFFERING 125% OF YOUR PACKAGE PRICE FOR A FUTURE FESTIVAL OF YOUR CHOICE. THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR CUSTOMERS WHO HAVE ALREADY RESCHEDULED, WE LOOK FORWARD TO WELCOMING YOU BACK.
WE SINCERELY APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE THAT THIS CANCELLATION HAS CAUSED YOU. ALTHOUGH, THIS IS THE RESULT OF BAD BUSINESS PRACTICES BY THE HARD ROCK RESORT, WE TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR MUSIC GETAWAY EXPERIENCE. AS WE MOVE FORWARD, WE ARE CURRENTLY TAKING STEPS TO SEVER OUR 7-YEAR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HARD ROCK RESORTS. WE ARE ALSO WORKING WITH OUR STRATEGIC PARTNERS TO PROVIDE A SUSTAINABLE "REFUND PROCESS" THAT WILL ADDRESS THE ABRUPT CANCELLATION. WE SINCERELY ASK FOR YOUR PATIENCE AS WE WORK DILIGENTLY TO MAKE THIS RIGHT FOR YOU."
The following is the full statement from Hard Rock International:
"Due to circumstances beyond Hard Rock’s control, the Sol Fest 2023 Event and the Sol Comedy Jam 2023 Events scheduled to take place at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana were cancelled. The hotel afforded the event promoters every opportunity to comply with their contractually mandated requirements, however, the promoter failed to do so and refused to make the payments required under their agreements. As a result of these actions and recent false and defamatory statements made by the event promoters, legal proceedings are under consideration. Once again, we are deeply sorry for the inconvenience."