Food & Drink

Sushi Fest has thousands of interested foodies. But some now fear the event is fake

Idaho Statesman

More than 6,000 people are interested in gobbling down sashimi and nigiri at the Sacramento Sushi Fest on July 7-8, according to the event's Facebook page.

But those who already bought tickets fear they may have gotten a raw deal.

The sushi festival hosted by Fanoomies Entertainment advertises tuna filleting demonstrations, door prizes and all-you-can eat Japanese food for just $20 as well as VIP packages that stretch up to $300. It's also been postponed once, is being organized by an unregistered company and was selling tickets Wednesday for a venue where it doesn't have a reservation.

The event was previously scheduled for May 12-13 at an undisclosed location around Fifth Street in Old Sacramento. That held until May 10, when the festival's organizers announced at the last minute it would be postponed.

On May 14, Fanoomies announced new dates and a location at the downtown Hyatt Regency Sacramento. No reservation is listed under Fanoomies' name for July 7-8, Hyatt systems administrator Denise Rhoden said Wednesday.

"They were trying to book with us that weekend ... but opted to go somewhere else," Rhoden said.

Fanoomies sold Sacramento Sushi Fest tickets through a website called Shopify before logging the buyers' names and contact information with Brown Paper Tickets, an online ticket retailer. Brown Paper Tickets then sent automated messages confirming each person's event registration, COO and general counsel Mike Sennott said.

People organizing free events can distribute admission passes on Brown Paper Tickets' website without paying to do so. If an event costs money, Brown Paper Tickets takes a cut of 3.5 percent plus 99 cents for every ticket sold, Sennott said.

Selling festival passes on another website and using Brown Paper Tickets' name, though, wasn't part of the agreement.

"Either they just think we’re really cool, or they're trying to make themselves seem more legitimate," Sennott said.

Brown Paper Tickets received several complaints of fraud after the event was postponed and launched an internal investigation into Fanoomies. On May 15, the ticket seller deactivated the event page and advised every buyer whose email address had been logged to ask Fanoomies for their money back.

If Shopify wouldn't comply, Brown Paper Tickets' email said, Sacramento Sushi Fest ticket-buyers should contact their banks and ask to cancel the charges. More than 250 people had bought tickets as of May 15, Sennott said.

"After investigating these claims and the organization, we did conclude that the event does not have enough information available to confirm that it is valid," the email read. "Specifically, we are unable to verify any of the information that was provided, or verify the event."

Fanoomies is not registered as a corporation or LP/LLC with the California Secretary of State. The business' website, created via the free-to-start web development platform Wix, doesn't list the Sacramento Sushi Fest as an event. The mailing address listed on the website, 12528 Arliene Drive in the Southern California city of Hawaiian Gardens, doesn't show up on Google Maps.

In a region of food lovers and no shortage of popular Japanese restaurants, organizers have not listed a single local chef or establishment participating in the event.

After The Bee reached out to Fanoomies for comment Wednesday, the Sacramento Sushi Fest's Shopify page shut down and commenting was disabled on the Facebook event page.

Fanoomies did not respond by Wednesday night.

Fanoomies sushi fests in Los Angeles and San Diego scheduled for this weekend and June 30 each caught the eye of 1,500 "interested Facebook" users despite not advertising a venue. The Los Angeles event is listed on Facebook as happening at the corner of Stocker Street and Rodeo Road, two streets that do not intersect.

If the Sacramento Sushi Fest does not occur, it wouldn't be the first falsely advertised event to hit California's capital in recent years.

A crab feed scheduled for the Coloma Community Center in January 2016 was canceled after several prospective attendees told the Sacramento Department of Youth, Parks & Community Enrichment they thought it was a fake. The same organizers attempted to run similar scams in 20 other cities spanning the U.S. before being outed in national media outlets.

Despite shutting down ticket notifications, Sennott said it was possible Sacramento Sushi Fest organizers intended for the event to occur.

"I've seen so many events and so many variations on events that don’t go as planned or advertised," he said. "It's a possibility this event organizer could just be super disorganized."

The Bee's Benjy Egel is launching a new effort to cover Sacramento's dining and beer scene. Please send tips and story ideas by email at begel@sacbee.com, on Twitter @BenjyEgel or by phone at (916) 321-1052.

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