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A screenshot of the GoFundMe page set up for Maryann Rolle
A screenshot of the GoFundMe page set up for Maryann Rolle

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Fyre Fest leaves restaurant owner unpaid, but donations save the day

The restaurant owner who was not paid by the organisers of Fyre Fest is now getting her money back, by public donations. Maryann Rolle, who runs the Exuma Point Bar and Grille in Exuma, said she put up US$50,000 of her own money to pay other staff who helped at the event.

A crowdfunding page has been set up on GoFundMe in her name and it has received around US$189,000 in donations in 11 days. Her donation goal was US$123,000.

The Fyre Fest has been receiving more attention since two documentaries on the music festival have been released on streaming services Netflix and Hulu. Rolle's plight was featured in the Netflix documentary, "Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened".

Rolle said she had spent US$50,000 to draft in extra staff and, despite the fact that the festival was clearly not happening, continued to uphold her catering commitment. She claims the total she spent is in fact much higher, in the six figures.

The Fyre Fest is the biggest controversy in the music festival industry. Marketing and promotion for the music festival promised that it would be a luxury event that would be more exclusive than Coachella. Held on an island in the Bahamas, tickets sold from US$1,200 to more than US$100,000 with celebrities such as Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski promoting the event.

But it turned out to be a massive fraud that left 5,000 concert-goers stranded on the island and resort owners and vendors left unpaid. The classy accommodation turned out to be leaky hurricane disaster tents, the gourmet food consisted of cheese sandwiches, and music acts including Blink-182, Migos and Drake were either not booked or had cancelled.

This led to lawsuits by the festival goers and an investigation by the FBI. The event organizer Billy McFarland was sentenced to six years of prison.

One final point: Maryann Rolle seems to be a legitimate business owner left in the lurch. But as a general comment, it would be prudent for people to make sure the page and its owner are legitimate and are not set up by fraud artists. There have been many cases of fraud on the GoFundMe platform, notably that of a couple who raised funds on GoFundMe for Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless man. People donated more than US$400,000 to the campaign, surpassing its initial goal of US$10,000. It turned out later Bobbitt and the couple had concocted the story to make money.

At Riabu, we believe in finding out who you are getting in bed with. Unfortunately Rolle had one eye on the future and did not find out more about the people she was dealing with. She was quoted as saying in Tribune 242: "I wasn’t working for this one, I was working on our future goals with Fyre, that was my purpose.”

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Mark Laudi

Mark Laudi

Press contact Managing Partner (+65) 6223 2249

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