If you decided to celebrate the Lunar New Year with a visit to a Hawker-style night market, there's a good chance you spent the evening dripping in sweat (the overnight low was still a very balmy 26 degrees) and waiting in a line. The queues at Pyrmont Bay Park's free Lunar Markets snaked around the block when we walked past, but they had nothing on the waits at the Carriageworks Night Markets.
Curated by Kylie Kwong, the ticketed event sold out in advance, with more tickets available on the door. By 6.30pm the event posted to Facebook that they were at capacity, and it wasn't long before complaints of long lines, intense heat inside the venue and sold-out food stalls started to roll in on the event's Facebook page.
Carriageworks ran a quarterly series of Night Markets in 2016, and this was not the first time complaints of overcrowding have surfaced.
Ali Benton, who attended the event told Time Out: "I could have had a better time eating a kebab at Central Station... It was like hipsters, families and inner westies in a gladiatorial fight to the end. I felt really duped... I went home, and stopped off for an iced tea and a Kinder Surprise at the 7/11."
"I have been to four events like this at Carriageworks [and they've] all been overcrowded... [They should] sell tickets [to] halve the crowds. That's all they need to do. All the problems were crowd related. The Saturday morning markets there, that I go to frequently, are delightful!"
Madeliene Hinchy, who arrived at 5.30pm that evening told Time Out: "It was so packed… you could barely walk. It took 40 minutes for me to get a meal from Long Chim… We stayed at the carpark [South West] end because the other end was so packed. When we left at 6.30 it was even worse. Someone looked at our food and said ‘you better hold that close’... I felt so sorry for the store holders because they were doing the best that they could.”
Carriageworks responded swiftly to the criticism, on Sunday stating on their Facebook:
Last night Carriageworks presented the Night Market, billed as a celebration of contemporary Australian Asian cuisine in collaboration with some of Sydney’s best chefs and producers, curated by Kylie Kwong. Carriageworks’ markets have grown quickly over recent months, and we are still discovering how best to manage this growth while still providing an exemplary audience experience. We clearly did not meet some people’s expectations and we sincerely apologise. We want to do this better and have taken all of your feedback on board. Our intention in introducing ticketed entry was to assist in providing a better experience. Clearly there is more work for us to do. We are reviewing our procedures and capacity prior to our next Night Market and remain committed to creating great cultural and community events.
This morning, they announced that attendees of the Night Market are eligible for refunds:
"We hear you and apologise that Saturday night was not the night that some of you wanted or expected and we want to make it right. The Night Markets are meant to be a great night. We know the crowds and service times need to be sorted out and we have been working on it. Clearly we still have work to do and the team are talking to everyone involved. We are finalising the details on how to process refunds. If you would like a refund please email us on email@example.com quoting your full booking name and point of purchase (Ticketmaster or Sydney Festival) by Thursday 2 February 5pm and we will be back in touch via email. We appreciate your views and are working to make the Night Markets as good as they can be."
Ali Benton feels Carriageworks could go further in compensating for the night, saying "they should donate a chunk of the profits to charity." Meanwhile, Madeliene Hinchy is pleased with Carriageworks' decision: “I think it’s 100 per cent necessary.”
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And, the Lunar Markets are still on for four more nights, and they tend to be less crowded on weeknights.