A manager at Denver’s Ogden Theatre claims he was fired by Colorado’s largest concert promoter for blowing the whistle about a concert by a COVID-positive musician.
In a lawsuit filed May 27, Brian Hendrick said he had been working for AEG for 15 years when, on Jan. 22, Griffin Washburn arrived at the Ogden “visibly suffering from quintessential COVID-19 symptoms.” Washburn performs electronic indie music as “Goth Babe.”
According to Hendrick, Washburn told his own tour staff that he should cancel the sold-out Ogden show, which had been moved from the Gothic Theatre to allow a larger crowd of 1,700 fans. But the show went on. Washburn tested positive for COVID the next day, Hendrick claims.
Hendrick’s attorney is Rachel Tumin with the Denver firm Jester Gibson & Moore. She said in an interview Wednesday that it’s unclear why Washburn, who was unwell and canceled a show in Fort Collins for the next night, took the stage in Denver. “That’s a question that we have as well.”
A request for comment from Washburn through Goth Babe’s website was not answered.
A review of the concert by 303 Magazine described it as “an immersive experience” that included crowd surfing by Washburn. The theater was described as “an intimate setting even amongst a swarm of hundreds of strangers.” Photos from that night show a packed house.
Soon after, Hendrick says he sent an email to AEG’s executives, accusing them of “extreme negligence” that put “not only their fans but all of our staff” at risk. On Jan. 25, he was fired, and on Jan. 26 he filed a whistleblower complaint with the state, claiming he was illegally terminated for raising health concerns and demanding paid sick leave, which AEG must provide by law.
“Taking the expression ‘the show must go on’ to a dangerous extreme, AEG created an immeasurable public health risk by refusing to provide its employees with sick leave and concealing employees’ rights to take sick leave, amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tumin wrote in the lawsuit, which was filed in Denver District Court.
AEG denied the allegations in a statement sent to BusinessDen.
“AEG Presents is aware of the complaint and believes the allegations are meritless,” said AEG Vice President of Communications Michael Roth. “We look forward to defending our position.”
After he was fired by AEG, Hendrick says he was hired to work on the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals. But the festivals were run by AEG affiliates who then fired him after they learned of his termination. Unable to pay rent, he moved out of his downtown apartment.
“It definitely uprooted me. Until I have a career where I can also pay for rent in the city, it’s really no longer an option at this point. That has been really difficult to deal with,” Hendrick said in an interview Wednesday. He has been staying with friends and family.
“It’s been a little embarrassing, to be quite honest with you,” he added. “I wasn’t envisioning having to stay off and on with my parents at this point in my life. If you would have asked me on Jan. 1, I would not have forecasted that would be the situation I would be in.”