Locals upset that out-of-state workers used at CMA Fest

Local bartenders are upset that out-of-state workers are being used by the new vendor at the CMA Fest. (WSMV)

Local bartenders said they put the “southern hospitality” in CMA Fest, but this year they claim a new staffing company gave their jobs to bartenders from different states.

The event is where Nashville’s freelance bartenders rake in the most cash each year. They said they got less than a week’s notice they didn’t get the job.

“It’s terrible. Nashville is a local community,” Tricia Ruggiero said.

This would have been her seventh year bartending at CMA Fest. She said she was told two days before it started she didn’t get the gig.

“It’s our biggest festival and it should be worked by local bartenders.

“This is my livelihood,” she said. “This is what I depend on to pay my bills, to take care of my family, as well as pay my property taxes.”

This is the first year the Country Music Association has contracted Best Beverage Catering, a company based in California, to hire their bartenders. News4 reached out to BBC, which said 75 percent of their hires for CMA Fest were local.

One bartender who was in contact with a BBC staffer during the hiring process, told News4 she tried to help her friends get jobs at the festival through Facebook. In one post to a local bartenders group, she’s apologizing after she claims she gave BBC a list of 130 local names and only 15 of them were hired.

“That southern hospitality is here,” Ruggiero said, “That’s what we’re known for and that’s what the people visiting Nashville should get.”

Now the concern for Ruggiero and her cousin, Angela Foster, is this will become a trend for future festivals, like Pilgrimage.

“I have children at home,” Foster said. “I have bills to pay. Not only did I miss out on this money, but I missed out on other money I could’ve been making as well.”

Several local bartenders News4 spoke to did not want to comment on this story because they were afraid it would cost them future work.

News4 asked CMA why they went with a different company this year, and whether they expect them to hire local. They provided this statement:

“CMA follows an established request for proposal (RFP) vetting process of vendors that calls for review every few years. We're excited to be partnering with Best Beverage this year. They emerged as the front runner with their plan to execute food and beverage service to the mass crowds that attend CMA Fest and have a long track record of well-executed events similar to that of CMA Fest, i.e. Pilgrimage Festival, Stagecoach, MLB All Star Games. All vendors that apply for consideration for CMA Fest are reviewed on the same eligibility requirements.”

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.



Rebecca Cardenas is a Murrow-award winning journalist who joined News4 as a reporter in September 2017.

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