When the lights went out Friday, some party-goers at “Carnevale After Dark” thought it was part of the spectacle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t and the fundraiser was forced to close early.
Two power outages mixed with two fire alarms prompted the evacuation of the event space at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Midtown and pushed organizers to shut down early the posh and costumed fundraiser for Jerusalem House.
“After we got evacuated the second time, we moved every over to the after party location at Pacci at the Hotel Palomar,” says Alex Wan, development director at Jerusalem House. “We found out today it was a mechanical equipment failure that they didn’t resolve until Sunday. It was pretty serious. It was just a crazy situation that unfortunately impacted our event.”
Nearly 500 people, the event’s capacity, were inside the Georgian Ballroom when the power failures started and the evacuation took place, Wan says.
Organizers hoped to raise between $50,000 and $70,000 through Carnevale and its corporate sponsorships, silent auction, raffle and ticket sales. Wan says the event will take a financial hit due to the problems at the venue and that the raffle was the most seriously impacted by the event closing down ahead of schedule.
But other aspects of the evening, including proceeds from the silent auction and corporate sponsorship, were up this year, he says.
“We will be able to make up some of the difference. We are crunching the numbers right now. We definitely made money, but it is a matter of how much we made versus what we hoped to make,” Wan says.
Any financial impact will be felt in the $3 million annual budget for Jerusalem House. Much of that is funded through grants for specific projects, but proceeds from Carnevale fill critical shortfalls since the funds are unrestricted and can be used anywhere in the non-profit’s budget. Jerusalem House provides permanent housing for people with and affected by HIV.
Return to Biltmore greeted with problems
Carnevale, in its 10th year, returned to the Biltmore after two years at the Foundry At Puritan Mill. Both event spaces are managed by Novare Events. Officials with the company did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday.
A spokesperson with the Atlanta Fire Department was researching the incident Monday and did not have any details of whether firefighters were dispatched to the Biltmore on Friday.
Wan says Jerusalem House will meet with Novare to discuss the problems with the venue and what approach to take in selecting a location for the 2010 event.
“We are going to talk with Novare Events and the Biltmore because there is a financial impact to us. They were clearly working that night to try and fix the situation. Obviously, it was beyond their staff,” Wan says.
Jerusalem House is considering hosting an event to thank patrons and sponsors for their support, as well as a public raffle to complete what didn’t take place on Friday before Carnevale was shut down.
But Wan says party-goers, who paid $65 to $100 to attend, have been supportive since the problems surfaced, which started within an hour or so of the event’s 8 p.m. start time.
“I appreciate the fact that people understand it was a venue specific situation and something we did not have control over. People have been good about connecting the dots. They understand that this is a benefit and we are a nonprofit and they were helping a cause,” he says.
Fun until everything goes dark
Ted Bruner says he arrived about 8:20 p.m. to find a “gorgeous” ballroom and people dressed in elaborate costumes. For about 45 minutes, he enjoyed a fun event.
“Then boom, everything went dark,” Bruner says. “Lights went out and the music stopped. People thought it was part of the show. Then the emergency lights came on.”
For Steve Coté, he arrived in costume about 8:30 p.m., drawn to the event by recommendations from friends who attended in past years.
“It was decked out well,” Coté says of the ballroom. “But by 9 p.m., the power went out. It was pretty much dark, totally pitch black for about 30 seconds until the background lights came on. The second time, I didn’t hear anything. I just saw people getting asked to leave.”
Coté, though, says that despite the Biltmore portion of the evening being cut short, he joined friends and other attendees at nearby Pacci to continue the party.
“It’s a good event and I would go next year, too. The fault is with the Biltmore folks. It was one of those unfortunate things and their hands were tied,” Coté says.
Photos courtesy Steve Coté