WEST HOLLYWOOD — Sheriff’s officials want answers about the overcrowding snafu that happened earlier this month at LA Pride when approximately 8,000 people above capacity were squeezed into the festival on the first day, which raised a safety issue and the fire department closing the entrance gate two hours early.
“It’s a safe assumption that a capacity number was given by someone to someone,” Capt. Sergio Aloma of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s West Hollywood Station said in a recent interview.
“Did someone chose to ignore the capacity number? I want to ask that question in the debriefing.”
The LA Pride Festival was housed on San Vicente Boulevard between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard June 9 and 10. On the first day, the festival was scheduled to close at 1 a.m., but the Los Angeles County Fire Department, concerned about overcrowding and safety, stopped allowing people inside about 11 p.m. No capacity issues were raised June 10.
‘THANKFUL NOBODY HURT’
“We shouldn’t have had to close it, but we did,” Aloma said. “I was thankful nobody was hurt from the overcrowding.”
The fire and sheriff’s departments estimated that 24,000 people were jammed into the festival space June 9. Since LA Pride officials on site didn’t give the capacity number to fire and sheriff’s authorities, they calculated that 16,000 people at any one time was a safe capacity for the festival area.
Cleo Smith, manager of events with the City of West Hollywood, told Q Voice News that 16,000 was the capacity number for the festival area, and that figure was discussed with LA Pride officials in logistics meetings in the weeks before the festival.
‘WE MADE MISTAKES’
Estevan Montemayor, board president of Christopher Street West, the nonprofit group that organizes the LA Pride Festival and Parade, could not be reached for comment.
Brian Rosman, a spokesman with LA Pride, wouldn’t discuss any issues about the overcrowding, release any attendance or capacity figures.
“Everything will be released sooner rather than later,” he said.
In a statement, LA Pride said, “We know that we made mistakes and we are sorry. Yes, we oversold tickets, and we accept responsibility for all the issues that caused at the door.”
When the fire department stopped allowing people into the festival, about 3,000 people were lined up along Santa Monica Boulevard at the entrance gate, Aloma said.
Among the individuals who couldn’t get inside were people who had left the festival and wanted to re-enter as well as people who needed to pick up their pre-purchased advance tickets.
As a result of the muddle, LA Pride offered a refund or exchange for admission to the festival the next day to anyone with an unused ticket or wristband. Anyone seeking a refund should contact firstname.lastname@example.org call 323.908.0607.
“We were not prepared for it. We are truly sorry,” the statement said. “This will be fixed next year.”
The statement, however, didn’t explain why festival officials kept allowing individuals to enter the festival space once the capacity was reached.
Between 9 and 10 p.m., sheriff’s station deputies noticed that people were crammed inside festival and asked the fire department if the number of people leaving was large enough to thin out the crowd and allow people waiting on Santa Monica Boulevard to enter. It wasn’t, Aloma said.
At some point, festival officials working the entrance gate should have noticed they were approaching capacity, Aloma said.
“As people were being let through the gate, why didn’t the people at the festival say, This is enough people,” Aloma said.
Also, LA Pride had announced during the afternoon that the festival was sold out; however, at 10:45 p.m. their website still encouraged people to buy tickets at the gate, according to a screenshot posted on social media.