Thursday, August 16, 2012
202 Market duped by fake Chippendales
The business canceled its sold-out show after learning it was dealing with fraudulent dancers.
Erica Yoon | The Roanoke Times
After 202 Market discovered the group posing as the Chippendales was fake, it canceled the show and is offering refunds and consolation coupons to patrons who bought tickets.
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The sold-out Chippendales show scheduled to take place at 202 Market in Roanoke on Sept. 18 was canceled Wednesday after promoters learned they had been hoodwinked by a fake version of the world-famous male erotic dance troupe.
About 250 fans were disappointed to be stripped of their chance to see the real thing, but their money will be fully refunded and both 202 Market and the official Chippendales company are offering consolation gifts.
"You just wouldn't think there would be people out there who could do this," said the restaurant's events and promotions director, Jo Jo Soprano.
Chippendales managing partner Kevin Denberg called 202 Market "an innocent bystander" and said fraudulent groups have tried to pass themselves off as the Chippendales in the past.
"I've been in the business for 12 years and it's a problem that comes and goes with some regularity," he said.
According to Soprano, he received a flier in the mail that indicated the Chippendales were on tour, would be swinging through Roanoke and would like to perform at their club. He responded enthusiastically but did not start to promote the show until he had tickets and posters in hand.
"That all had the Chippendales registered trademark on it, which is really what got us," Soprano said.
The Chippendales company was tipped off about the "deception" by a fan who noticed the Roanoke appearance was not listed on the official Chippendales website or Facebook page, Denberg said. The site invites visitors to report copycats, even promising a free pair of tickets to anyone whose tip leads to the cancellation of a show.
"Like many famous brands, Chippendales is constantly policing its rights" reads a statement on the website, which also says the company "has enjoyed a perfect record in every legal proceeding initiated to protect its intellectual property" under its current management.
Denberg said in general, the same handful of individuals has repeatedly come across their radar, but he did not know enough facts about the 202 Market incident to speculate about who might be behind it. He said Chippendales lawyers are investigating.
Soprano said his first inkling that something was amiss came when the real Chippendales removed event postings from 202's Facebook page. After speaking to representatives of the official dance group, Soprano called a man he'd been dealing with for the show.
"He said he had a signed agreement with the Chippendales that allowed him to use all that," said Soprano, who did not name the contact. But after the man promised to send a copy of the agreement, Soprano never heard from him again.
Denberg said it probably should have been a red flag that the group was only charging $15 per ticket, saying his dancers would likely fetch about $40 per ticket in a city of Roanoke's size. It also was suspicious that the group did not ask for any money upfront, he said.
Had the fake Chippendales shown up to dance, it would have been a "subpar product," Denberg said. According to Soprano, his contact at the Chippendale's corporate office said the act would likely have been much raunchier and more inappropriate than the real show.
That would not have been comfortable territory for 202 Market, which was disciplined by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control after an off-duty city employee unexpectedly peeled off his clothes during a charity bachelor and bachelorette auction in early 2011. The restaurant was ordered to stop selling alcohol for 10 days or pay a fine of $1,000 to shorten the suspension to three days. Soprano said they chose to pay the fine.
Denberg said the public is the real victim of the fake Chippendales snafu, but Soprano said fans who have stopped by the restaurant to get a refund have so far been very understanding and sympathetic.
Soprano said he would like to book the official Chippendales for a show at 202 Market in the future. Denberg said he could not say whether the club was a viable venue, but said it seemed like a nice place when he checked out the website.
Meanwhile, 202 Market is passing out coupon packets along with refunds to customers, and Denberg said the Chippendales would be happy to send consolation gifts, such as calendars or posters, to disappointed fans.
Those who would like to take advantage of that offer may email the company at email@example.com.