Much like a magic act, Cabaret Bijou disappeared without a trace.
In October 2022, a week before the cirque-style performance, marketed as a "gourmet cabaret" with a four-course dinner was meant to open to the public - poof! - it was cancelled.
The event's website was replaced with a landing page announcing the temporary suspension of ticket sales due to "corporate restructuring." The page apologized for any inconvenience and promised that more information would follow soon. Since then, there have been no further updates and the website now displays a 503 error message. Their Instagram account says: "The Show is Suspended Indefinitely."
At the time, Cabaret Bijou organizers also sent out a press release that stated: "Sadly, due to technical challenges, the show opening will be delayed. More information will follow soon, once new dates are announced."
The show did not go on.
Now, nearly a year later, increasingly frustrated ticket holders remain in the dark as to what went wrong or if they'll ever see a refund.
Ticket holders want their money back
Back in September 2022, Carine V. bought two tickets through the event website to see the Nov. 19 show of Cabaret Bijou at $149 each plus fees. (V.I.A. has agreed to not publish her last name for privacy.)
Ten months and multiple emails later, she’s still waiting for a refund.
“The first email said ‘unforeseen issues,’” Carine tells V.I.A. over the phone, “but promised that refunds should be dealt with within a month.”
About a week later she says she reached out to follow up and asked them to let her know if she needs to do anything but she received an automated response that the email inbox was no longer being monitored.
“I’ve followed up pretty much once a month but it is always the same,” she says - it's an automated message that promises more information within the next week.
Carine isn’t alone in her struggle. Ticket holder Susan Brauer tells V.I.A. she has managed to get her money back, but not directly through Cabaret Bijou, whose representatives initially emailed her in October to offer rescheduled tickets for a performance after Nov. 1. When Brauer followed up on this promise she received the same automated response as Carine.
Eventually, Brauer received a refund after contacting Visa, which she says took several calls and a lot of her time.
"I was really looking forward to the show," she tells V.I.A. "I [feel] bad that I recommended Cabaret Bijou to friends who also wound up having to struggle to get their money back. I can imagine that the performers and other staff must have worked so hard to prepare for this show, they must have also felt tremendously let down."
One Vancouver resident, Loi Ly, spent $500 on tickets and is still waiting on a refund.
He says he wasn't even notified that the event was cancelled. Instead, he was issued a voucher for a future show that did not include when or where the rescheduled event would take place and which expired within a year.
"We asked for our money back and the email went ignored," he says.
Ly says he hasn't tried disputing the charge with his credit card company yet because he's unsure of how likely he'd be to get a refund. "I didn't think we have a leg to stand on as I have no idea how many other people are victims."
Carine felt largely the same, saying she was hoping a group might form to take on the matter together. From time to time she would check online to see if anyone else had shared their struggles with Cabaret Bijou but she came up short.
“I wanted to give [the event organizers] the benefit of the doubt,” she says. “If they went bankrupt there’s no recourse but at least I’d like to receive an email.”
Will ticket holders ever see their money again?
In an emailed statement sent to V.I.A. in November 2022, the City of Vancouver said that "it is the City’s understanding that this project is in receivership." A spokesperson also confirmed that the City had previously issued an electrical permit to Cabaret Bijou, but the contractor for the project, Eventpower, asked to cancel the permit before an inspection was booked.
As of Aug. 2, 2023, Cabaret Bijou Entertainment Inc. has not filed for creditor protection but there is a Provincial Small Claims Court case in progress against the company.
On Jan. 6, The Dick Irwin Group Ltd. filed a notice of claim against the business for breach of contract.
The claim states that $11,032.35 worth of tickets were purchased for the Dec. 17, 2022 showing of Cabaret Bijou for the North Shore Kia Christmas party. Since the defendant (Cabaret Bijou Entertainment Inc.) defaulted on performing, the operating company of North Shore Kia is seeking a full refund plus filing and service fees.
The claims have not yet been proven in court.
According to Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee, ticket purchasers could conceivably file a class action lawsuit if they are not given refunds.
However, if the company did file for bankruptcy then Lee says the debts will be paid in a certain order. This would mean that the ticket-holders would have to be high enough on the list of creditors to actually get reimbursements when the money is distributed.
V.I.A. has also received confirmation that not all of the businesses and individuals that contributed to the project were fully paid for their involvement.
Performers were left in the lurch when the event suddenly shut down. Many travelled to Vancouver with the impression they had steady work for the next six months only to be scrambling for a job and accommodation last minute. One aerialist shared on Instagram at the time: "Cabaret Bijou is cancelled and as a result, myself and the nine other incredible artists on the project find ourselves suddenly available and seeking new contracts."
Similarly, another performer claimed in an Instagram comment that she "spent two months of [her] life and all [her] money making a show that never got to open." She adds, "I stopped promoting once I was kicked out of my [accomodation] and not even bought a ticket home."
V.I.A. has repeatedly tried to contact Cabaret Bijou's producer Scott Malcolm over the last 10 months to ask what happened to indefinitely postpone Cabaret Bijou but Malcolm did not follow through on an initial email indicating he would comment.
A number of individuals previously tied to the project in a variety of capacities declined to speak to V.I.A. about the production.
Similar situation with producer's previous Vancouver show, Bacio Rosso
The circumstances surrounding Cabaret Bijou share some similarities to those of a similar endeavour of Malcolm's dating back to 2018.
Malcolm produced Bacio Rosso at Queen Elizabeth Park back in 2018 and 2019; the event was also a cirque dinner experience under a big top.
Despite drawing in over 18,000 attendees, in May 2020, Bacio Rosso filed for bankruptcy, owing over $1.2 million to various creditors, including Bard on the Beach.
A spokesperson for Bard on the Beach told V.I.A. over email that Vancouver's annual outdoor Shakespeare event had rented some lighting equipment to Bacio Rosso.
When Bacio Rosso filed for bankruptcy, Bard was listed as a creditor because its invoice was still outstanding. Bard was able to collect all its equipment back, limiting its loss to the uncollected rent ($2,000). The other 64 creditors range from individual loans to internet bills.
Two months later, in June 2020, Malcolm applied for and was granted a business license for Cabaret Bijou.
In February 2021, Malcolm met with the Vancouver Park Board committee to discuss plans for Bacio Rosso to continue at a new location from November 2021 to March 2022. Six to eight homes nearby the Queen Elizabeth Park site had submitted 45 noise complaints due to the show’s dependency on diesel generators so Malcolm petitioned the Park Board to allow the event to take place at the Burrard Civic Marina, which was granted.
However, the second season of Bacio Rosso never took place and an Entertainment Services business license was ultimately issued to Cabaret Bijou by the City of Vancouver on September 15, 2022, with the event set to take place in Vanier Park.
What can people in B.C. do when they are seeking a refund for cancelled events?
"Both the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (BPCPA) and the Ticket Sales Act (TSA) have refund provisions that may apply to protect people in a situation where a ticketed event is cancelled," the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, which looks after consumer affairs including ticket sales, tells V.I.A. in an emailed statement.
"The BPCPA establishes rules regarding consumer contracts and consumers may be eligible for a ticket refund for a cancelled event under the Act. In these cases, consumers should start by following up directly with the business they purchased the tickets from to seek a refund. If a successful resolution cannot be reached, consumers should contact Consumer Protection BC for further advice and guidance in relation to their specific circumstances," outlines the ministry.
"Consumer Protection BC is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the BPCPA and the TSA," notes the ministry.
For more information on event ticket refunds, consult the Consumer Protection BC website: Ticket Sales - Consumer Protection BC.