Big Event Fail: A Basement Flood


Kate Kennedy

As we have learned from our Big Event Fail posts, some things are just out of the event or sales manager’s control. In some situations, all you can do is react in the moment to handle the chaos at hand as quickly and smoothly as possible, all while saving the event for the client.

Within the Tripleseat family, we have countless years of experience working in the event industry, so we understand the stress that comes along with event fails. We have shared many of our amazing customers’ event fail stories, so now we want to join the fun and share some of our own. To kick off the start of some employee event fail stories, Kate Kennedy, Customer Marketing Manager at Tripleseat, explains how she handled a very unexpected flood during a packed evening back at her venue when she worked as an event manager.

“I was working as the Marketing + Events Manager at a very popular downtown Boston Irish bar/nightclub at the time of this particular event fail. As many Bostonians know, Boston buildings in the Faneuil Hall area can be extremely old and this one was no exception. The Irish bar took over the space of a large bank building and when we did the initial renovations for the bar, we kept all of the existing bathrooms that were there from the bank. This was a huge mistake. The plumbing was built for bank employees and customers, not the crowd of 300+ young adults who would regularly attend the bar, most of whom had been drinking all night.

“One of our private event spaces was a bank vault that was converted into a bar area with swanky seating inside the vault. There was only one bathroom in the basement that had a full space capacity of around 80 people. Also another mistake. The time of my event fail was right around Thanksgiving, which as event professionals know, is the prime time for high school and college reunions. I had booked two reunions in one night in each of our event spaces, including the vault space. As guests for each event began to arrive, the bathroom in the basement began to overflow and water, among other things, started to flow into the event space itself. It was horrifying! Not to mention this particular client for the event in the vault was from a town that had booked their high school reunions with me every year for seven years straight.

“Since we were fully booked on this night, and at this point in the evening almost at full capacity, I had to think fast. I used a VIP rope to sanction off an area next to our main bar that we normally did not reserve for events, along with two private booths in the same area. I brought in high boy tables, candles, and whatever decor the group had brought to make it look like it was their own special area. I told the bartender at that end of the bar that he was only working for this group for the rest of the night, so to make them feel like VIPs. I also offered them discounted drinks, comped most of their food, and made sure it was replenished throughout the night. This did mean losing some money for the bar, but it was worth it to keep 80 guests happy who I knew would be repeat customers in the future.

“The guests’ reaction was extremely understanding and reasonable. Although the circumstances were not as planned, it seemed like they still had a great time and loved the fact that I made them feel like they were getting VIP service. It helped that the section I roped off was right in front of a large set of windows looking outside to where people would line up to get into the bar. On this night, like many, the line lasted until midnight and wrapped around the building. That definitely made the group feel more special!

“After this particular event fail, I learned that working in the events industry is never boring, keeps you on your toes, and forces you to roll with the punches. I would always tell my employees that my job was essentially to ‘put out fires’ all night, every night. You never know what is going to happen and you have to act fast, all while never showing that you are stressed or worried. Luckily, at this point in my career, I had about 10 years under my belt working in restaurants, from bartending to waiting tables, managing, and everything in between, I had been there and done that. My experiences certainly helped me keep my cool!”

Want to share your Big Event Fail?
Join Tripleseat’s Party People community on Influitive and submit your story through the Big Event Fail challenge. You can also connect with other event professionals online, attend our in-person Party People happy hours, and unlock opportunities for awesome prizes!

Get more advice from the event planning community
Read past Big Event Fail posts on the Tripleseat blog. And our EventCamp videos feature some of the top experts in events, restaurants, venues, hospitality and marketing. Check out the sessions on our EventCamp website – click Sessions on the top of the page to access the videos.