DOWNTOWN — Dozens of bartenders who worked Pride in the Park, a music festival held in June to celebrate LGBTQ Pride, are still waiting on their paychecks.
The two-day outdoor music festival, which began in 2019, was June 25-26 in Grant Park with sets from Alesso, Saucy Santana, the Chainsmokers and various drag performers. It was organized by Dreambrite Presents and Special Events Management, nabbing sponsorships from a variety of companies, including Truly Hard Seltzer.
But workers who bartended the event said they haven’t been paid in full and communication on when they can expect their money has been sparse. Tips were distributed in August, but several people haven’t been paid their $10 hourly wage, workers said.
Block Club reviewed text messages among workers showing numerous bartenders hadn’t been paid for the event. Other text messages showed employees asking event organizers about their paychecks and when they might arrive.
“You don’t know everyone’s situation and what that $10 an hour means to somebody, especially when so many people live paycheck to paycheck,” said Adam Marrero, a bartender who worked the festival and hasn’t been paid for his hours worked. “When people are taking time out of their weekend to work an event, they deserve to be paid.”
Pride in the Park employed 94 bartenders as independent contractors, said Chez Ordoñez, a spokesperson for the festival. Of those bartenders, 26 were already paid their full hourly wage and tips upfront due to a clerical error. All performers and support services staff have also been paid, he said.
That left 68 bartenders who still need to be paid, including eight team members who haven’t filled out their necessary tax forms, Ordoñez said. All remaining paychecks were sent by the end of Friday, he said.
“[People] generally don’t get paid for music festivals until 30-60 days after the event, so that’s happening now,” Ordoñez said.
In an email sent to bartenders Friday, event organizer Keegan Moon said the delay was because Dreambrite was waiting on sponsorship and box office payments to the organization, which “are not provided generally until 30-60 days post-event.”
The email came after workers started making social media posts calling out the company for having not paid its workers.
“Everyone is getting paid,” Moon said.
It also contradicted an earlier email Moon sent to staffers Aug. 11 that claimed “the festival came in far lower on revenues and has incurred some rather large debt.”
“As a result, it would appear that 2022 was the final year for the festival for a while,” Moon wrote in the earlier email. “Therefore Dreambrite, the production company that puts on Pride in the Park, does not have the funds to pay us the hourly portion at this time.”
Moon told the workers Dusty Carpenter, president of Dreambrite Productions and lead organizer of the event, would personally cover the festival’s debt and pay its workers, but it would “take some more time.”
Ordoñez said the message was a “poorly worded email” that incorrectly stated Pride in the Park’s ticket sales were low and its future was uncertain. Ordoñez did not know how many tickets the festival sold.
“Pride in the Park doesn’t do this for a profit — it’s a Pride event — so they’re fine,” Ordoñez said. “Ticket sales were fine and went as expected to go, and as of now, this is continuing to be an annual event.”
Ordoñez said he did not know whether the checks sent Friday were personally funded by Carpenter, as previously suggested, or through the festival’s revenue.
Workers said they were relieved to learn their payments were on the way, but they criticized Dreambrite’s level of communication since the festival ended.
“One of the most frustrating parts is there’s been no communication from Keegan or Dusty about what was going on until the Aug. 11 email,” said Sara Paiz, who said she was owed money for working 22-24 hours at the festival. “I earned that money. I busted my a–, and my body hurt for a couple days after the festival. That money is owed to us.”
Paiz questioned why it took 65 days to send payments to workers because she’s worked other festivals that paid employees much sooner. She said she also worked Lollapalooza July 28-31 and “got paid immediately.”
“They said on Aug. 4 you’ll get your first paycheck for tips, and on Aug. 10, you’ll get your second one for your hourly. How is it I already got my two checks from Lollapalooza and I’m still waiting on Pride?” Paiz said.
Cesar Estrada, another bartender, worked 20 hours and was left waiting for his paycheck, he said.
“If you work and do your job, which we all did, you should get paid in time,” Estrada said. “Some people are OK with working for free, but I’m not. If I do my job, I expect my entire paycheck. We’re going on month three and it’s disappointing and unprofessional the lack of communication we had.”
Ordoñez said Dreambrite hadn’t received official complaints about paychecks until Block Club spoke to former employees because staffers didn’t use the proper channels to report any issues.
“If a contracted bartender sees a discrepancy in their payment, they were each given the process to request a review for our staff,” Ordoñez said. “This was to be done via email, not text messages or messaging the social media accounts or other ways to seemingly notify festival staff.”
Dreambrite will provide contracted workers with a breakdown of their hours, tips and pay in the interest of transparency, Ordoñez said.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: