LA Weekly Cancels Sips & Sweets Event After Protest Sparks Sponsor Exodus

Cancellation follows boycott led by former staffers laid off by LA Weekly’s new owners

The boycott of LA Weekly led by former employees claimed its first victory Thursday with the cancelation of the magazine’s annual Sips & Sweets food and drink event, just a week before it was scheduled to take place.

In an email obtained by former Food Editor Katherine Spiers, LA Weekly cited what it called “a sad day for LA Weekly’s Marketing Department,” and said “we have decided to cancel Sips & Sweets 2017 while we work together as a new team towards realigning LA Weekly with the ideals on which it was founded.” TheWrap has confirmed the email’s authenticity.

The email thanked employees for “quite literally EVERYTHING we could as a team to get it done,” and asked that they “bare (sic) with us as we turn all our focus onto getting back on track.” See the full email below.

The cancellation of Sips & Sweets comes after several sponsors pulled out of the event in response to a boycott effort led by former music columnist Jeff Weiss and ex-film critic April Wolfe. Many of the businesses also said they intended to cease advertising in LA Weekly.

Companies who cut ties with LA Weekly include Mello Music Group, Angel City Brewery, Los Angeles restaurant Otium, and music venues The Echo and Resident.

The boycott followed the purchase of the alt-weekly by Semanal Media, a consortium created specifically to purchase LA Weekly and made up largely of Republican donors. Semanal fired most of LA Weekly’s staff after the sale became final, and in subsequent statements appeared to denigrate the culture of Los Angeles.

LA Weekly did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the boycott. But several hours after the cancelation of Sips & Sweets on Thursday, Orange County-based attorney David Welch, a partner in Semanal, separately reached out to TheWrap and provided the following statement:

“Semanal Media Group is committed to preserving free press, and we are currently going through the process of hiring staff who are aligned with the ideals upon which LA Weekly was founded – covering issues that affect communities within Los Angeles, especially underrepresented communities, and even if those issues are controversial or widely criticized.

We understand that the recent acquisition of LA Weekly has had a profound effect on those invested in the publication and the community at large. The recent boycotts reflect the community’s concerns, and we are taking these concerns into account during this transition. We hope everyone will bear with us as we direct our focus to making improvements and working to help this beloved publication reach its full potential. This includes cancelling our Sips & Sweets event next week; we apologize for the inconvenience.

We look forward to fostering LA Weekly’s growth into a cultural cornerstone of the city.”