Democracy Dies in Darkness

Going Out Guide

Sweetgreen just pulled the plug on the Sweetlife Festival. Here's what's likely to replace it.

By Lavanya Ramanathan

January 27, 2017 at 6:00 AM

Calvin Harris closed out the second day of the 2015 Sweetlife Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson for The Washington Post)

The news is not so sweet, nor all that surprising: Sweetlife Festival, the music-and-food bacchanal thrown by salad chain Sweetgreen for six years at Merriweather Post Pavilion, is done.

Neman said the return to the city and the block party format is simply another pivot. "We see this as an evolution," he said.

[This one tastes bland, too: Sweetlife and the decline of the American music festival]

Sweetlife also seemed to attract crowds young enough that they had to be dropped off by legal guardians. The effect was one of musicians playing to half-present crowds, unfamiliar with such bookings as Billy Idol. Food vendors sometimes were forced to eat losses. "We worried a little about the age set. It tended to skew super-young. They don't have the same kind of disposable income. For them, it was a … concert with no parental supervision," said Bettina Stern, co-owner of Chaia, the plant-based fast-casual that sold its tacos at Sweetlife in 2014 and 2015.

[Why the Landmark Music Festival isn't returning to the National Mall this year]

Last year, Stern said, vendors were notified that the crowds would be low and that they had the option of bowing out. Chaia opted to skip it, she recalled, adding that Sweetlife itself was a good experience for the business, which was then a farm-market stand. "It was a great setup. It was totally not right for us." (It also didn't help that the festival, which was often held in April or May, seemed a lightning rod for downpours, in some years turning into one giant mud-slick.)

[ Sweetlife Festival provides a tall order for food vendors]

In a statement emailed to The Post, Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P., which operates Merriweather Post Pavilion, said low ticket sales didn't contribute to the festival's demise.

"The shows always did well…that wasn't the issue," he wrote. "These guys have always wanted to do things differently and, when it became apparent that festivals around the country started looking the same, they didn't want to just be this area's edition of that."

Sweetgreen, which now operates in seven states and the District, has already experimented with a scaled-back format in Los Angeles, where it hosted an outdoor concert with a much more compact bill: Banks and Alvvays. In Chicago, it hosted an indoor "Sweetlife Session" with Taylor Bennett, who is Chance the Rapper's brother.


Lavanya Ramanathan is a features reporter covering youth, culture and trends for Style. She worked as an editor and reporter at Newsday and the Orlando Sentinel before coming to The Post in 2004.

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Going Out Guide

Sweetgreen just pulled the plug on the Sweetlife Festival. Here's what's likely to replace it.

By Lavanya Ramanathan

January 27, 2017 at 6:00 AM

Calvin Harris closed out the second day of the 2015 Sweetlife Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson for The Washington Post)

The news is not so sweet, nor all that surprising: Sweetlife Festival, the music-and-food bacchanal thrown by salad chain Sweetgreen for six years at Merriweather Post Pavilion, is done.

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