Friday, August 14, 2020

Youmacon organizers explain why canceling this year's event is not so easy — even with the coronavirus

Posted By on Fri, Aug 14, 2020 at 10:38 AM

click to enlarge Youmacon in 2019. - MEGAN MATELONEK
  • Megan Matelonek
  • Youmacon in 2019.

Updated at 3:52 p.m.: This post was updated with a statement from the City of Detroit.

Originally posted at 10:38 a.m.:

Earlier this week, the organizers of Detroit's massive annual cosplay convention Youmacon drew backlash from fans when it was reported that the 2020 event was proceeding — despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The event, which has drawn more than 20,000 in the past, is still scheduled to take place Oct. 29-Nov. 1 at at Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center and TCF Center.

But in a Facebook update posted on Thursday, the organizers explained their side of the story. They cannot simply cancel because they are contractually bound to the venues and contractors, they say — and the only way they could get out of the contracts is if Governor Gretchen Whitmer or Mayor Mike Duggan force the event to cancel.

"This is not a simple matter of being out a bit of money this year," the organizers wrote. "UNLESS the City or State declare Force Majeure, we would be unable to withdraw from our contracts for this year without being held liable for the lost sales."

Force majeure is a common clause in contracts that frees both parties from liability or obligation following an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, also known as an "act of God." Epidemics are commonly covered under force majeure.

That said, the organizers say force majeure is the scenario they are anticipating. "We would not be surprised at all if Force Majeure is declared," the wrote.

But until then, they're contractually forced to proceed. So now they're planning out two possible scenarios: one in which the event is canceled, and one in which it is not. In the unlikely event that force majeure is not declared, the organizers are working with the venues to implement social distancing, protective equipment, and routine cleaning.

"To run this event as safely and responsibly as we possibly can, as your welfare is our top priority," the organizers wrote. "We only ask that you please bear with us as we try to sort out these details and get things organized for two very distinct, yet very possible scenarios."

If the event is in fact canceled, however, the organizers say they can't offer refunds because last year they changed their policy. So if the event is canceled or if people don't want to attend, the tickets will be rolled over to 2021. Fans can also transfer their tickets to someone else.

Of course, everything is still up in the air right now.

"Please be safe and be on the lookout for more news, we still have more announcements on the way," the organizers wrote. "This is a very difficult and fluid situation, and we know this is a lot to take in, but we also thank you for your understanding and continued support."

The City of Detroit's corporation counsel, Lawrence T. Garcia, denies that the Mayor has the responsibility to weigh in on Youmacon, however.

"This is purely a contractual matter between two private parties, and it's up to them to resolve it," Garcia says in a statement shared with Metro Times. "While I have not seen any of the involved contracts, I find it very hard to believe that anyone wrote or signed a binding legal agreement in which the concept of ‘force majeur’ was defined as an emergency specifically declared by the Mayor of Detroit and/or the Governor of Michigan."

Garcia adds, "Private parties should resolve their differences privately. There is no cause to shift responsibility for a business deal to elected officials who have no involvement whatever."

You can read Youmacon's full statement below.

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