The Sasquan Party Story

We’re having “meet and greets” at Sasquan, not parties. Keith Kato explains:

Those of us who requested party rooms at the designated party hotel for Sasquan were sent the following memo, which speaks for itself — the term “party” is banished. As I heard it, the party addendum to the hotel contract with the Davenport was not signed until very late July, and by these instructions it seems to me the hotel is still touchy about it. I don’t know what is going to happen when the activities begin, since it is usual for the hotel security to patrol the halls as a matter of course, right?  Of course at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon, the party hotel management melted down and shut down all parties, including the SFWA suite, until the phrase “breach of contract lawsuit” was used.

Here’s relevant excerpts from the e-mailed memo:

Subject: Important party reminders for Sasquan

Bringing party supplies in through the hotel lobby — please remember to be discreet with your supplies, have everything boxed or covered/concealed so that the hotel is not alerted and therefore concerned about PARTIES.

These party events are being called “Meet & Greets” so when interfacing with any hotel personnel regarding any questions, or dealing with bellmen, that is the term to use! Not “party”.  😉 ….

If your event is PUBLIC, please bring us 6 copies of your party flyer and we will be happy to post it on all the Party Boards (erm, “Meet & Greet” Boards) located in each of the main hotel lobbies and the convention center.

Personally, I’m fine with whatever stance they need to take to keep their hotels happy, although I understand experienced fans who become impatient about having to adopt a fiction in order to have their annual, erm, meet and greets.

I certainly haven’t heard of any problems so far.

On a different topic — somebody working with the con suite did express roundabout gratitude to the Sad Puppies, saying their department is one place the extra funds from supporting memberships are being plowed back into the convention.

45 thoughts on “The Sasquan Party Story

  1. Peace, the flip side of that question is: Is it common for hotels to renege on contracted terms regarding party rooms?

    Yes.

    Big fat yes.

    (My wife and I ran a number of staff lounges at various cons back in the 80’s. Similar problems there.)

  2. Peace: There are two potential issues with parties. One is noise complaints by other occupants (usually mundanes, but even fans sometimes). The other is corkage — meaning a hotel prefers you buy stuff from them, or have them cater it.

    Sometimes conventions are able to negotiate a corkage waiver, which eliminates that problem.

    The sensitivity about party noise and policies about parties vary among hotels. It’s easy to find conventions where they are allowed to book party hosts in a way that fills up an entire hotel floor, and things go very easy. At the other extreme, a con may end up in a hotel (usually because of a management change after the contract is signed) that now won’t allow parties. And in between there may be other reasons that parties have to appear to be quiet in-room hospitality.

  3. One year a conference I attend booked sar a Disney hotel. No parties at Disney and the Disney police while polite are scary. We were firmly shut down at 9 pm

    Never went back there.

  4. I’m sorry, but if there’s a signed deal that says parties are allowed, how can a hotel (even after a change of management) claim that parties aren’t allowed without negating the entire contract?

  5. Mike Kerpan: Well, every example is different. Some committees have strong negotiators who are able to convince the hotel violating the contract is a bad thing. Others don’t. Sometimes the story is that the new brand that owns the hotel is enforcing a different party policy and they just count on having the con over a barrel. The con usually doesn’t want to negate the entire contract. They would lose the facility and have to move, which may involve too many problems. Also, if they try that, the hotel could still try to extract the cancellation fee or whatever damages are called for in the contract. In short, committees live with a lot of unsatisfactory things because the tradeoffs are worse.

  6. Mike Kerpan on August 20, 2015 at 9:03 pm said:

    I’m sorry, but if there’s a signed deal that says parties are allowed, how can a hotel (even after a change of management) claim that parties aren’t allowed without negating the entire contract?

    Fairly easily. [hotel legal weasel] “You can’t have room parties. You say your contract specifically allows room parties? That’s nice. If you wish to get stroppy about it, we’ll ask your whole convention to leave our premises, and we wish you every good fortune in finding an alternate venue Right This Second.”

  7. I personally remember a convention back more than ten years ago now where the hotel, in complete violation of their contract (not that they cared) shut down every party they could find. Including four little old ladies who get together to play bridge every year and had nothing at all to do with us.
    Why should the hotel care? We’re just a bunch of weirdos who’ll be gone and not bring them any repeat business anyway. Of course, I remember a story that I believe it was Sarah Goodman told me about a convention 30 or so years ago where the hotel was absolutely horrible to the convention in every way they could think of, so the next Monday some of the convention members came back in their business clothes as building inspectors and shut the building down for six months, and all the management ended up fired. Or so the story went; it may have grown in my memory or in the telling.
    The thing is, a Worldcon doesn’t have the kind of leverage that even a local con gets from repeatability, and you have to remember that SF cons as a class are very low on many hotel’s priority list. We’re “smurfs”. Which is to say we belong to that unloved and penny-pinching category of social, military, religious or fraternal organizations that don’t get giant catered banquets, don’t pay the hotel to stock the consuite, and haggle over everything. We’re better than empty rooms, but we’re not a license to print money. Even if we DO regularly run the hotel restaurant out of food (and they never, ever believe that we will).

  8. Using language the hotel looks kes can make things easier for everyone.

    Even if that means bringing in the food and drink in boxes clearly labeled TEXTBOOKS.

  9. @Cally:

    Even if we DO regularly run the hotel restaurant out of food (and they never, ever believe that we will).

    And run the bar out of booze and beer.

  10. Maybe it’s the brevity of the form that allows the humor to shine through? Very nice tweet.

  11. Having been to one convention where the floors and hotel were shared by a Barbershop Quartet convention–the hotel does have a right to grumble. The BSQ’s were absolute pigs and going down one of the hallways and seeing piles of dishes and rubbish was a bit much, along with the puddles of something in the rug fabric….

    So, it will be a Dead Dog and Dead Puppy meet and greet this year?

  12. So, it will be a Dead Dog and Dead Puppy meet and greet this year?

    See, you just want to kill the true representatives of fandom! Where’s Lou Antonelli’s apology now?

  13. Robert Whitaker Sirignano on August 21, 2015 at 4:49 am said:

    Having been to one convention where the floors and hotel were shared by a Barbershop Quartet convention–the hotel does have a right to grumble. The BSQ’s were absolute pigs and going down one of the hallways and seeing piles of dishes and rubbish was a bit much, along with the puddles of something in the rug fabric….

    I’ve never been to a science fiction convention that ever treated a hotel that way.

  14. Wasn’t it the 1999 Worldcon where the hotel, citing a corkage clause, shut down all parties with alcohol after the first night?

  15. Egads, people. Just call on one or two Puppies on site to ensure all your parties. We know how to get things done.

    As a bonus, we have been declared dead (often violently so) so many times that next year’s Worldcon will probably have a zombie theme.

  16. Peace Is My Middle Name on August 20, 2015 at 8:34 pm said:

    Is it common to use subterfuge about convention parties?

    Yes, it’s not just sasquan – Hotels that host cons tend to have licensing, legal and insurance issues with people drinking in the hallways or on the con floor or obviously carrying party goods to rooms.

    Once inside a hotel room the legalities and ability for a hotel to care change markedly though.

  17. There should be a morlock and eoli party ! The fun part is the rhetoric was so muddled, anyone can come as who they want and still be with a self-identified cohort.

    I can see JCW – ‘away vile morlocks’ followed by ‘to me my beloved morlocks’

  18. Peace Is My Middle Name on August 20, 2015 at 8:34 pm said:
    Is it common to use subterfuge about convention parties?

    I’ve never gone to WorldCon, but I regularly attend a regional con. Subterfuge is expected, even though there’s a permanent base and the con has booked with the same hotel every year since I started going. No visible party supplies when setting up, finish your drink before you move from one room to the next, no mentioning your refreshments on signs advertising your room party. They’re pretty decent about things, all things considered, but I can imagine WorldCon faces more problems given that it’s a one shot event.

  19. There should be a morlock and eoli party !

    You’ll forgive me if I steer clear of the cold cut platter.

  20. @Jack Lint
    Haha. Yes, that does bring more of the novel to recollection. Prudent choice.

  21. @Jack Lint — RHPS: “That’s a tender subject…”

    Re: Hotel/Con conflicts…

    The OVFF where the new management staff proved beyond any doubt that they didn’t understand the concept of blocking, nor did they realize that 24 hour access to the function rooms meant what it said…

    So there are several of us jamming in one of the smaller rooms — one being our GoH, Heather Alexander. The security guard tries to shut us (and all the other filksings) down at about 11 pm. As co-chair I cite the contract and the guard goes away. This happens twice more before we’re forced to leave the room, but the guard says we can sing in the lobby.

    So the entire con decamps to the lobby with instruments…

    Now, OVFF pulls from a wide age range and we’re a fairly clean looking crew. So Heather is leading them in some of her songs while I am saying very harsh things to the management, who replies they’ve called the police (visions of being arrested dance in my head). About that time, the crew launches into “March of Cambreadth.” And the police enter the door to the refrain: “How many of them can we make die?!”

    Cops confer with management staff for several minutes, then step away from the desk in formation and the senior cops says — “We see nothing actionable here,” and directly to the manager, “THIS IS YOUR problem.”

    And we were allowed back into the function space…

    Why did this happen? The contract specified that convention attendees were to be booked into the rooms immediately above the function rooms. The new management blithely ignored the contract…and put mundanes there instead.

  22. I was at a Philcon in the mid 1970’s where a kid about 12 was drunk, and soon after the police were roaming the halls with large dogs. So yes, things can get out of hand.
    If you wanted to liven up your dead dog party, invite West. Dr. Herbert West.

  23. In this case ” at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon, the party hotel management melted down and shut down all parties, including the SFWA suite,” SFWA tried to have a party on a designated quiet floor thus setting off the hotel. I don’t recall it being a problem for the other parties in the hotel just SFWA’s.

  24. There’s a general, political lesson here. As an ex-libertarian, I still run into lots of people who believe society should replace “compulsory” laws with “voluntary” contracts. Leaving aside all the problems of what “voluntary” means when contracting parties have disparate levels of power, there remain two problems. One is that there’s established economic theory about the limited (if real) utility of contracts; e.g. Coase’s theory of firm formation.

    But the other is practical: real contracts don’t work the way political contractarians seem to imagine they do. I have to wonder what these people do for a living. I’m no lawyer, but I have a lot of business experience working with partners in contractual relationships with my employers over the years, and there is always, always slippage. And the least likely thing to happen in the event of a conflict is that one party will get their will successfully enforced by a court. About five hundred things are more likely to happen to that, starting with, “Okay, let’s write an addendum.”

  25. Are you serious Jim? You have never worked for a company that won a lawsuit or a contract negotiation? You need to get a better lawyer.

    Slippage isnt the same thing as breach. It is the hotel’s way of saying, “Hey, let’s find out if these nerds are doormats or not.” Just don’t be a doormat and your party should rock on.

  26. Are you serious Jim? You have never worked for a company that won a lawsuit or a contract negotiation? You need to get a better lawyer.

    I don’t think you understood what Jim was saying. But go ahead, live a life in which you try to sue over every issue that comes up in a contractual relationship. After you’ve filed bankruptcy, you might reconsider your stance.

  27. To be fair..l if im staying at a hotel i am not going to be real tolerant of other peoples noise.

    George rr martin is there cant you just have him go celebrity on the hotel and threaten to say bad things about the hotel the next time he is on late night TV?

  28. “Just don’t be a doormat and your party should rock on.”

    Or your con gets thrown of the hotel anyway and your victory in court months later totally makes up for everyone’s weekend being ruined.

    Not.

  29. I was at a Philcon in the mid 1970’s where a kid about 12 was drunk.

    There was no Philcon in the 1970s.

  30. Or your con gets thrown of the hotel anyway and your victory in court months later totally makes up for everyone’s weekend being ruined.

    Not.

    Yeah, because it is so gosh-darn fun to quietly retire alone to the room like an obedient nursing home patient to make sure you don’t risk getting shushed by the night auditor.

    Of course, if Breendogglesque drunk pre-teens at imaginary Philcon’s are the only alternative, maybe everyone is better off living under the New Puppy Reich.

  31. Philcon was first held in 1936, and has been held annually ever since, with the exception of the WWII years. There were most certainly Philcons in the 1970s, at least on this planet.

  32. @Ray Radlein: And run the bar out of booze and beer.

    My favourite being 2005, when we drank Glasgow completely out of real ale. Glasgow!

  33. Rick Moen on August 21, 2015 at 9:48 pm said:
    @Ray Radlein: And run the bar out of booze and beer.

    My favourite being 2005, when we drank Glasgow completely out of real ale. Glasgow!

    Well, come on, not the whole of Glasgow. Just a fair bit of it.

    Hence the traditional call on Sundays at Eastercons: “The Real Ale Bar still has some beer! SLACKERS!”

  34. Yeah, because it is so gosh-darn fun to quietly retire alone to the room like an obedient nursing home patient to make sure you don’t risk getting shushed by the night auditor.

    So instead you would lose the whole con because you think court battles over contract breaches aren’t Pyrrhic victories at best. I’m guessing that no one hands you any responsibility in real life. Or sharp objects that you might hurt yourself with.

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