Harry Potter bar crawl was less magical than advertised, some say

Eddie Redmayne in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
Eddie Redmayne in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” TNS

A Harry Potter-themed bar crawl with drink specials, wizard swag and thousands of new friends: What could go wrong?

A lot, according to some people who attended the “Wizard and Wand” event in downtown Raleigh on Saturday.

Attendees paid up to $40 for tickets, but many faced hours-long lines, overcrowded venues and lackluster swag.

“It was so disappointing,” said Erin Frye, who went to the bar crawl with her sister. “We just felt like we were totally scammed. All of the people I’ve talked to have felt the same way.”

Zack Medford, president of Great Crawl Events, which hosted the crawl, praised the event that drew 3,300 people.

“We pretty much turned this place into Hogwarts,” Medford said.

But customers had plenty of complaints. Frye said she waited in line for an hour and a half to get a wristband to go to participating bars, but event workers didn’t check the bands. She said she waited in line for another hour to get into a bar before she decided to leave early.

Matt Bishop, another attendee, said he thought the event was oversold and that special items didn’t live up to their promises, including a Harry Potter cauldron cup, a scarf, complimentary butterbeer and a shot of liquor.

The Harry Potter cauldron cup turned out to be a 12-ounce plastic cup like the ones sold at a concession stand, with only the advertisers’ branding on it and no reference to the bar crawl, Bishop said. He said the butterbeer was a 2-ounce sample.

“It seemed like they were using false advertising to make a lot of money,” Bishop said.

As for the Harry Potter scarf? They were nowhere in sight, instead replaced by “wizard wands” that were chopsticks dipped in wax.

Meford said the vendor who was supposed to supply the scarves backed out, so he removed that swag item from the event’s website and added more of other items, including the wands. He said that he stayed up late for several nights hand-making them himself with a special technique to stain the wood.

Medford said his company received only one complaint about the event.

“There was one elderly lady, we got her registered right away and got her two beers,” he said. “That was pretty much the only one we heard of.”

But many people posted complaints on social media.

Attendee Christina Robbins said she signed up for the bar crawl to celebrate her birthday, but she left early because of long lines. Some of the bars weren’t decorated in a Harry Potter theme, and some people didn’t seem to realize a bar crawl was taking place, she said.

“We ended up eating at Subway because the food places on the list were turning people away simply saying they couldn’t handle any more people,” Robbins said.

Adam Heroux, who also signed up for the event, said bars were way too crowded.

“People did have fun, but what we all had in common was loving Harry Potter and hating the company that was putting this on,” Heroux said.

Jessica Rusnak, bar manager at Woody’s in City Market, said she wasn’t accurately informed about how many people had signed up for the event. Organizers told her 1,400 people had registered, she said.

“I don’t think everybody was prepared for how many people were going to be involved,” she said.

Medford said long lines were simply a sign of the event’s popularity.

“With 3,300 people getting registered, there are certainly lines, of course, just like any concert,” he said. “We did everything in our power to get people through the lines.”

Great Crawl is incorporating the feedback it has received as the company plans next year’s Harry Potter event in Raleigh, Medford said. A similar event is scheduled in Charlotte on March 3.