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KAABOO, fair board reach agreement on food servers

DEL MAR — The debate over who should serve as the concessionaire for KAABOO Del Mar has been settled, at least for now.

The 22nd District Agricultural Association, which governs the Del Mar Fairgrounds where the three-day entertainment festival takes place, approved a nonbinding memorandum of understanding that allows KAABOO to use Spectrum Staffing Services as its food and beverage operator – mostly bartenders — and Premier Food Services for staff catering this year only.

Organizers presented another option for a two-year deal if Premier met KAABOO’s expectations, but board members, noting a lack of confidence, decided to take it one step at a time and revisit the agreement after the 2018 event, set to take place Sept. 14-16.

“We are so excited to have reached an agreement with the 22nd DAA board and are looking forward to being able to serve our guests with a world-class experience at another fantastic KAABOO Del Mar,” company spokesman Joshua Goodman said. “We are well into the planning of this year’s event and the full music and comedy lineup will be announced March 22.”

Premier, which has for decades provided hospitality-related workers for events at the fairgrounds, was a co-concessionaire with Best Beverage Company during the first KAABOO in 2015.

KAABOO representatives said communication between the two operators was problematic so the organizers used Premier exclusively the following year.

Nathan Prenger, vice president of KAABOO operations, said that resulted in a staffing shortfall, which created long wait times at bars, serving locations not ready when the event opened, unsecured product, a 2 percent post-event cash shortage and complaints about employees.

As it was contractually allowed to do, KAABOO paid Premier a $150,000 buyout, issued a request for proposals and used Spectrum Staffing Services in 2017.

Premier workers were given first rights for jobs — that policy that will continue this year — and 185 of the 204 applicants were offered positions. Those who worked the event described myriad problems.

One bartender filed charges against a volunteer worker for assault while others claimed the working conditions were filthy, some employees were pocketing cash and giving away drinks and bartenders who were gone for extended periods of time still received an equal portion of the pooled tips.

The issues, which KAABOO officials have denied, have been discussed at every monthly board meeting since November. Last month board members urged both sides to work through their problems and reach a compromise that would provide more guarantees for Premier employees.

Staff catering is largest food and beverage component of KAABOO and is the longest duration, Prenger said.

“More importantly it represents new jobs for Premier employees that didn’t exist in 2017,” he added.

Ken Wilson, the head of Premier, said the contract will allow his employees to serve more than 14,000 meals to KAABOO crews. It will employee 43 kitchen staff for 19 days, totaling over 2,500 hours of work and an additional $41,000 in pay.

It will also include 624 hours of front-of-the-house labor for the 19 days, totaling more than $14,000 in wages, he added.

After the vote, Karen Goldstein said she expected the board to support the one-year deal.

“We’re OK with it,” she said. “We’ll deal with it because the people who need the work are going to get the work. We’ll see what happens.”