Empire Center Puts the Brakes on Krispy Kreme Tuesdays

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Following days of media hype, legal threats, and cries of anger from auto enthusiasts, Krispy Kreme Tuesdays is now a simple footnote in Burbank history. According to Burbank Police sources, Empire Center management decided to shut down the main parking lot serving Empire Center, effectively putting an end to the “flash car mob” event. Private security guards put up cones, with signs clearly noting the parking lot was closed.

(© 2015 Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(© 2015 Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The Burbank Police, with assistance from a number of local mutual aid partners, had a very large and visible presence in the area. One police motorcycle officer monitoring traffic flow, joined by a Glendale Police officer, commented that “we are not bothering anybody here who is not breaking a law.”

Parking lots serving restaurants on the I-5 side of the center remained open until 10 p.m., allowing patrons to continue either patronizing the food establishments, or accessing the stores in Empire Center by foot. One Best Buy employee, wishing to remain anonymous due to restrictions talking with media, noted that their business was about 10% of normal, and that he “was very honored to have patrons coming into the store” in spite of the difficulty getting to the store.

(© 2015 Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(© 2015 Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Krispy Kreme itself closed at 4 p.m. In an official statement by Darryl Carr, Senior Director Corporate Communications at Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation, “Krispy Kreme has no affiliation with this group or their event. We are not a sponsor nor do we support this group or their gatherings. The Krispy Kreme name has been used without our approval or consent. At this time, we are working with the Burbank Empire Center and the Burbank Police department to protect the Center, its tenants and patrons, as well as the community at large. In doing so, we will be close our store today from 4pm to 5am.”

The Krispy Kreme store did have a number of private security present along the perimeter of their property to ensure no vandalism occurred based on anger from “mob” enthusiasts turned away from the center.

Alex Wraith, a Best Buy patron who took the long walk to do a bit of shopping, noted that in his home town of Edgewater, New Jersey, similar motorcycle flash mobs in his home town had created a lot of problems, including violence. Wraith commented that he was “happy to see the Burbank Police out in force protecting the community resource.”

Others were confused why the parking lot was closed, and were not aware of the background. Most were surprised, with one couple from China finding amusement in the situation, joking “this could only happen in America.”

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

On the Krispy Kreme Tuesdays Facebook page, most comments were focused on the heavy handed Burbank Police approach, without an understanding the closure was really a decision by the Empire Center management.

The “owner” of the Krispy Kreme Tuesdays account on Facebook, and apparent leader of the event, commented “due to the legality of this gathering. We do not condone or permit a Flash Mob Car Show. We do not condone public damages and or road blocking at Krispy Kreme / Empire Center. We will denounce ourselves as ‘hosting this FLASH MOB CAR SHOW according to authorities.’ I will be present at the empire center eating as a patron at one of the empire centers many food vendors. I do not mind if you come and say hello. Any gathering at this point would be at your own individual discretion and owns choice to show up at the empire center and Burbank city.”

Others commented (not accurately) that “It’s technically a direct violation if our first amendment which states “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Amy Albano, Burbank City Attorney, according to “Krispy Kreme Tuesdays” account on Facebook, sent a letter which threatened legal action, and accountability for the cost of security at Empire Center on Tuesday evening if the event continued. This was, expectedly, responded to on the Facebook page with less than positive comments, although one level-headed participant did note that “Empire Center is private property, and if property management does not support the event…nothing you can do, freedom to assemble or not. The pic makes it simple…. Top – Public Street…Bottom – Private property.”

The Krispy Kreme Tuesdays “mob” attempted to move the event to other locations in the City of Industry, Burbank Airport, and even Gardena, police were ahead of the mob at each move, and no alternate location materialized.

While those prevented from using the Empire Center for their “Flash Mob” car rally used terms such as the “heavy handed response by Burbank Police,” Burbank Police officers also noted that during previous Krispy Kreme Tuesdays events numerous fights broke out between rivals, drivers showed very poor behavior, including burnouts, racing, and “donuts,” and the police had extreme difficulty responding through crowds when problems occurred.

“We simply could not break through the crowds quickly enough to adequately handle the situation” noted one officer, who was more concerned with safety and protection of resources than anything else.

The cost of protecting the Empire Center from potential damage or liabilities from the Krispy Kreme Tuesdays event was high. All stores had a fraction of the patrons expected during the afternoon on a beautiful summer day. Employees were let off early, suffering a loss of income based on either hours or commissions. The center and several stores hired large numbers of additional security for the evening. Police and fire department personnel from Burbank and up to 12 mutual aid contributors come with a high cost, as well as the dilution of assets or resources from the home cities.

Burbank is strong, and will recover, but the cost to individuals, entrepreneurs, and companies was high. Based on previous “flash mob” rallies, the response was justified, and the level of response observed very appropriate.

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