Latin Music Festival Organizers Claim Police and Fire Demands Ruined Event

The organizers of a now-defunct music festival called “Pueblo Fest” are suing the host city of Tulare, California claiming its fire and police departments sabotaged the event with unreasonable requirements and excessive costs.

The suit was filed by two brothers, Esau and Euler Torres, last week in US District Court for the Eastern District of California naming the City of Tulare, Police Chief Wes Hensley, and Fire Chief Willard Epps as defendants.

Pueblo Fest was intended to be a three-day concert event featuring Mexican and Latin music across seven stages at the International Agri-Center. The inaugural event for what was intended to be an annual music festival took place March 17, 18 and 19, 2017, but resulted in massive losses for Torres brothers. They did not run the event again.

According to the complaint:

  • Even though Plaintiffs and their musical promotional capabilities were well-known to the City of Tulare and its officials, in the days leading up to Pueblo Fest and during the event, Plaintiffs were subjected to arbitrary and capricious requirements all designed to undermine the success of Pueblo Fest.
  • Despite Plaintiffs long history of successfully promoting musical events in and about the City of Tulare, such as the Posadas and Viva Tulare, City officials nonetheless racially profiled Pueblo Fest as a Mexican-gang event.
  • The City of Tulare’s Chief of Police, the City’s Fire Chief, and the City’s Planning Department imposed upon Plaintiffs undue restrictions that are not placed on other similar entertainment events.
  • Plaintiffs were required to pay cash for permits. Permits were required by the Fire Department for stage equipment even though there was no City ordinance or precedent for such requirements. Plaintiffs were not permitted to sell tickets on-line in advance of the event and were further prohibited from selling tickets “on-site” at the event.
  • The City’s then Chief of Police explicitly prohibited Plaintiffs from advertising that on-site tickets would be available at the event; ignoring the fact that almost 90% of concert goers buy tickets in person onsite.
  • Plaintiffs were advised by Defendants and other City officials that the event would be cancelled if tickets were sold on-site on the days of the event.
  • In addition to retaining independent security officers, the Tulare Police Department insisted that its officers, including the gang unit, be hired and paid-for in advance.
  • The Tulare Fire Department joined in mandating “building permits” for conditions and circumstances that do not fall within City ordinances and also threatened to cancel the event if Fire Department staff were not hired and paid for in advance.
  • The City of Tulare Building Department staff also joined in the discriminatory conduct by exercising excessive “red-tape,” threatening to cancel the event one day prior to occurring if “vendor permits” — that were not required — were not secured by vendors.
  • During the event, an excessive number of police officers were present throughout the event.
  • Police officials relocated the main-entrance to a less desirable and unplanned location, threatened to shut-down the event if on-site tickets were sold, restricted parking to a non-designated restricted area, mandated inefficient beer-gardens at unplanned locations, and herded attendees into exits immediately after the performance by the last musical act.
  • As a direct and proximate cause of the unlawful discriminatory conduct by Defendants, and each of them, Plaintiffs suffered economic damages by being prohibited from realizing the full economic potential of the Pueblo Fest.

The complaint alleges violations of federal and state free speech, due process, equal protection rights; race discrimination; selective enforcement/due process violations based upon race and national origin; and violation of the contract clause (Article I § 10 of the US Constitution).

Here is a copy of the complaint: Torres v City of Tulare

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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