BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Thousands packed the lawn outside Bethany Church in Baton Rouge Friday, Nov. 1 hoping to hear from God and catch a glimpse of grammy award-winning rapper, Kanye West. Many say the free concert, called Sunday Service and Brunchella, was wonderful, the music was powerful, and the experience was one-of-a-kind, but some say the extra perk of brunch beforehand, that many actually paid for, left them disappointed.
A picture posted on social media during the event from one woman disgusted that her $55 ticket, some of it promised to charity, paid for such a small amount of food. The post sparked a mountain of backlash on social media over the weekend and the woman is not the only fan now left wanting more.
"It was a good experience even though the breakfast was bad," said Caroline Heims.
Robert and his wife, Caroline Heims, made the hour drive from Thibodeaux for the event and say while the concert was worth it, the food was not.
“The grits was the warmest, but everything else was cold and you know, we didn’t really have anywhere to sit and we just kinda sit out on the grass or stand up and eat,” said Robert.
They are among a group of folks who now want their money back and say they deserve answers.
“That’s the thing,” said Caroline. “They say the concert itself was free, so if the money was for the brunch, I mean, some refund would be owed to people.”
A news release sent to the media the week of Oct. 28 clearly shows that Boil & Roux would be providing the brunch for the event. Turns out, Lauryn’s Fine Catering out of Prairieville was actually brought on to take care of the meal. The owner took responsibility for the situation, releasing the following statement.
“Like much of the city, we were excited about the opportunity to be a part of Kanye West’s Sunday Service and Brunchella. We were contacted only 28 hours prior to the event, after the $55 price had been set by the organizers, not Lauryn’s Fine Catering. We agreed to assist the local organizers with providing a breakfast buffet for over 2,000 guests. While we typically do not fulfill large, full-service orders with less than a month’s notice, we chose to assist the organizers whom we believed to be affiliated with Kanye’s team at an incredibly reduced rate. Our company additionally provided staffing, tables, and linens at little or no cost.
That said, we did not and would always refrain from making dismissive statements about guests’ experiences, as first reported by Daily Mail . No one from Lauryn’s Fine Catering has made any comment concerning last Friday’s event until now.
We regret that our food ordered by the organizers, was not what the guests had envisioned, and did not remain hot at all times, as the warming dishes were susceptible to the 35 degree weather, and our goal was to serve the more than 2,000 VIP guests as quickly as possible. It has been our primary focus for the past twenty years to provide top notch service to our guests. It is our hope that the multiple compliments we received from event guests outweigh the negative experiences received from circumstances outside of our control. As with every event, we will use this experience as an opportunity to grow, and we hope to strengthen our credibility and service for years to come.”
Some guests say they did not realize a different caterer was handling the food until WAFB brought it to their attention.
“That wasn’t expected. Everybody came expecting to have food from Boil & Roux,” said Caroline.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter reached out to the organizer, Adrian Hammond Jr., who said he would not do an interview unless it was positive. He did blame the caterer, saying they were paid more than $23,000, but did not deliver. He also believes everyone is focused on the wrong aspects of the event.
“The Kayne West Sunday Service was a very positive, uplifting, spiritual awakening experience for many. We have received thousands of emails from concert goers thanking us for bringing Kanye to Baton Rouge. Hundreds of pastors from across the country have asked us to bring Kanye to their various cities. Additionally, Bethany Pastor Jonathan Stockstill called me to personally thank me for the wonderful opportunity to help bring souls to Christ. The complaints we have received have been addressed. We have also reached out to the young lady whose post went viral concerning the food and offered to remedy the situation. The complaints received were in the minority as the overwhelming majority of people who attended the concert enjoyed a dynamic, epic worship service. Our intention was to bring the word of God to the community and we are proud to have accomplished that. We are also so grateful for all of the amazing feedback. A big thank you to Pastor Stockstill and the residents of Baton Rouge for your support. We look forward to bringing Kanye back to Baton Rouge to continue to help spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
A special thanks to Kanye West for bringing such a powerful event to the Capital City."
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the Heims if they would pay $55 again for the same experience.
“For the concert, yeah, but for the food and the Brunchella situation, no,” said Robert.
The 9News Investigators found a release from Louisiana’s U.S. Attorney’s Office showing where the concert promoter, Adrian Hammond, was convicted in 2018 and ordered to serve a year and a day in prison for bank fraud and other charges. In 2016, federal investigators determined while he owed more than $100,000 in unpaid taxes, he cut a $220,000 deal with Southern University to provide entertainment for a concert. When the IRS contacted the school to collect part of the money Hammond was set to earn, investigators say he ended the contract with Southern and then got a friend to pick up the same contract with the university and pay him a cut from the earnings. Investigators say the money was then put into an account for his restaurant, Boil & Roux.
As for the Brunchella event, Hammond says they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to deliver, telling WAFB in an interview before the concert that some of the money collected was going to be donated to charity.
“We’re donating to local non-profit organizations as well, yeah,” he said in the interview.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter reached out to Bethany Church to see if they received any of the money from the event. A spokesperson said they had nothing to do with the event. The spokesman released the following statement.
“As the venue location, and nothing else, Bethany Church simply allowed an event promoter to utilize the open field in front of the church crosses. All artist logistics, including ticket sales and relevant financial agreements, were handled by the event promoter Affiliate Nation; the church has nothing to do with any of those operations and did not receive any amount of compensation, directly or indirectly, from sales related to the event. In no fashion was any part of this event a fundraiser for the church.”