While the rest of the city was busy nursing Y2K hangovers and marveling that A2K went off with nary a hitch, some 70 bartenders who worked private tents at the event spent the first days of the new year trying to track down a promoter who they say bilked them out of at least $250 apiece.
Bartenders who tried to cash checks written by Dan Rosenauer of TEX-Events, the promotions company that operated the tents, say their checks came back marked "insufficient funds." Worse, they say, Rosenauer's account with Norwest Bank has been closed, and Rosenauer himself is nowhere to be found. "From what I've heard, he's split town," says Texas School of Bartenders president Jim Shearer, whose organization provided bartenders for the event. "This guy just totally screwed everybody over. ... To an 18-year-old kid, $250 is a lot of money to give up a millennium for." Security guards, who were paid $150, reportedly lost their wages as well.
Twenty-six-year-old bartender Michelle Pearce, who worked the tent at Fourth and Congress, says she suspected something wasn't kosher about Rosenauer's company when she showed up for training at TEX-Events' office and "nobody who was working there had ever worked for the company before." Her suspicions were confirmed when she arrived at the tent site on New Year's Eve and found an empty parking lot; bartenders not only had to set up the tents, she says, they had to take them down at the end of the night and load Rosenauer's truck with leftover beer and supplies. Finally, at four in the morning, the bartenders got paid. "It was about 38 degrees outside," Pearce recalls. "We all huddled together to stay warm. We bonded." According to several bartenders' accounts, Rosenaur paid them out of the window of a rented minivan before driving off into the night.
Then, on Monday, the checks started to bounce.
Theories on why Rosenauer failed to pay what he owed range from simple negligence to criminal fraud, but most of the bartenders agree that the promoter (whose letter soliciting bartenders promised "better than regular hourly rates and a Big Bonus" and "HUGE" tips) lost a substantial amount of money on A2K. That's because TEX-Events' three tents, which cost a hefty $25 to enter, were set up for shelter, not a party. "We only had three kinds of beer," says Chad Kelly, 22, who helped man the tent at Second and Congress -- "Coors, Coors Light, and Miller Lite. People were asking for Bud, Bud Light, and Shiner Bock, and we had to tell them we didn't have any and we didn't know where it was."
Worse still, Kelly says, was the lack of any entertainment whatsoever in the tents; although ticket purchasers were promised live entertainment, Kelly says, the only thing that came close was a TV showing a football game in the corner, "and more people were interested in that than what was going on in the tent."
And those "HUGE" tips bartenders were promised? Pearce says they, too, failed to materialize, mainly because so few people came into the tents; and those who did, she says, weren't exactly in a generous mood. "No one wants to tip when they're not getting what they paid for." Pearce says she made about $40 in tips for more than five hours' work; another bartender, 19-year-old Chrissy Scandariato, made less than $15 working the tent at Fourth and Colorado, less than a block away from the action on Congress.
Jeff Carroll of LBJ-S Broadcasting Co., whose radio stations sponsored the tents, admits that the turnout was less than overwhelming. Part of the problem, Carroll says, was that "we were expecting a crunch [of people] and there wasn't one. The people were very well-mannered and it was easy to move around. People didn't need a place to escape to like we thought they would."
In fact, so few people came into the tents that LBJ-S stations made not a single penny in profits, according to Carroll. But since the stations' names were emblazoned on the tents, Carroll says, he wants to make things right with the bartenders and security who got scammed. "I don't think we bear responsibility legally, but obviously I'm going to make a phone call because our name's involved with this and we want to make things right," says Carroll. "If people really worked, they should get paid."
Carroll says the A2K party was the first time the stations had worked with TEX-Events, though they had done business with Rosenauer and Pecan Street Cafe owner Bob Woody, who secured TEX-Events' liquor permit for A2K. "I think this is a new company," Carroll says. Repeated calls to Rosenauer's office and mobile phone were not returned.