Sun | Jun 13, 2021

Mocha Fest to return to Jamaica for 2022 staging

Minister Bartlett denies knowing organisers

Published:Wednesday | June 9, 2021 | 12:09 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett said that all the Mocha Fest patrons had been ‘double-vaccinated’ and that the event organisers were not at fault for the event held at Rick’s Café.
Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett said that all the Mocha Fest patrons had been ‘double-vaccinated’ and that the event organisers were not at fault for the event held at Rick’s Café.
Rick’s Café had been recertified and reopened its doors yesterday.
Rick’s Café had been recertified and reopened its doors yesterday.
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The week-long party series, Mocha Fest, which was recently mired in controversy, will be back in Jamaica next year and early bookings are now open. The organisers on Monday announced May 26-31, 2022, as the dates for the Jamaica leg of the ‘The...

The week-long party series, Mocha Fest, which was recently mired in controversy, will be back in Jamaica next year and early bookings are now open. The organisers on Monday announced May 26-31, 2022, as the dates for the Jamaica leg of the ‘The Wildest Urban Festival On Earth’.

“Mocha Fest Jamaica will be back again in 2022 and promises to be our biggest one yet! With experts predicting a spike in travel for 2022, we are anticipating a large turnout for Mocha Fest Jamaica 2022, and we are planning on putting together an event that you have never experienced before!” the organisers promised.

The staging of one of the Mocha Fest events at popular Negril hotspot Rick’s Café triggered public anger, and accusations of double standards, that foreigners were allowed to come to the island and party when the entertainment sector has been suffering, owing to a lockdown of more than one year. Viral videos showed partygoers maskless and ignoring proper observance of COVID-19 protocols. The operators of Rick’s Café subsequently apologised and had their COVID-19 compliance licence suspended. The venue was closed for seven days.

The event held at Rick’s Café was designed for visitors to the island only. In an interview with The Gleaner, Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett said that all the Mocha Fest patrons had been “double-vaccinated” and that the event organisers were not at fault. “The Mocha Fest people left the venue at 4:30 p.m. They didn’t go there to party; they went to cliff jump and do whatever other activity on offer and then went back to their hotels. The organisers had held the event for a number of days within the resilient corridor, and everything went well,” Bartlett said.

BREACH OF PROTOCOLS

Mocha Fest organisers, in a statement, had laid the blame for the breach of protocols squarely at the gates of Rick’s Café. “[Our] intention was to visit the island of Jamaica and enjoy this trip, while isolating the group from the local community. We managed to successfully do that with some of our activities; however, we could not have Rick’s Café agree to [the] exclusive use of the venue for our guests. We moved forward with the group to Rick’s, trusting that as a reputable and licensed attraction, they would do what’s necessary and close the gate once [the] maximum allowed capacity was reached, in accordance with local COVID protocols, to which they verbally agreed to do. To our disappointment, they did not close the gate,” the statement read in part.

Asked if he knew the Mocha Fest organisers personally, Minister Bartlett said “no”.

“I don’t know the organisers. I met them over Zoom at the meeting following the event at Rick’s Café. One of the promoters used to work in the tourism industry, and he and his partner conceptualised this event, which he takes around the globe. I am really quite proud of him, and we need this event which has brought thousands of tourists into the island over the years. We have to think post-COVID,” Bartlett told The Gleaner on Monday.

In addition to Jamaica, the party series also heads to Costa Rica, Brazil, Kenya and Greece for 2022.

Minister Bartlett also said that Rick’s Café had been recertified and “should be open today”.

Checks with Rick’s Café on Tuesday morning revealed that the venue has reopened. A young man who answered the phone told The Gleaner that Rick’s Café got back their “COVID certificate and were given the option to reopen on Monday, but we have reopened today”.

He referred The Gleaner to the operations manager for more details, but that person was unavailable.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com