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Chi-Fiasco: Sci-Fi Con Cancels Convention, Citing Hotel's Rude Remarks

By Marielle Shaw in News on Jan 15, 2014 7:25PM

Photo credit: Skywaaker

Geek culture has exploded in recent years, becoming more mainstream (for better or worse), but it appears not everyone may have gotten the memo. The River North Westin Hotel has come under fire over allegations of rude remarks by the staff during the process of booking a new sci-fi con there.

Chi-Fi is a science fiction conference akin to C2E2 or Wizard World Chicago, celebrating all things “geeky”, stating on their website that their event was “designed to encompass a wide range of geeky genres, including science fiction & fantasy, alternative history, British media, comics and more” and welcomes those who consider themselves long-time geeks or who were just starting to pursue geeky interests.

In an interview with Fox32, James Dobbs, the chair of the event, explains that while the event was in the planning stages, he’d encountered trouble getting in touch with the planners. When he finally did, he states that he was told by a senior staff member that the hotel wished to maintain a more “Four-Seasons” feel and felt that “costumed freaks” would not be in keeping with that, suggesting the event might not be the right fit for their location. Dobbs makes it clear that this problem was at the location and not with Westin-Starwood. In a letter that was sent to potential attendees and posted on their site, Dobbs also mentions the hotel’s “disapproval” of the anti-harassment policy they wished to enforce.

The River North Westin didn’t stay silent, calling Dobbs’ claims false. DNAInfo Chicago received the following statement:

"Providing a hospitable, welcoming environment is the essence of our business, and The Westin Chicago River North is extremely disappointed in the false claims being made by Chi-Fi Con."
Chi-Fi Chicago was on track to have 2-3,000 attendees, with special guests already lined up for the March 27-30 event, including cast members from Star Trek: Voyager and MST3K. Cons are big business and attract national attention, coming into the spotlight even more this year with popular shows like Heroes of Cosplay on SyFy. While we do believe in the right to refuse service, we’d be disappointed to see a hotel trying to shame people who are just trying to have a good time celebrating the things they love, and would hate to see it tarnish the welcoming Chicago usually gives to such events.

For those who were planning to attend Chi-Fi, mark your calendars for March 29. An announcement on the con’s Facebook page promises a fun event for those who already pre-registered or those who are interested in attending the reschedule con in 2015, though at this time no location has been announced.