Warning: This story contains graphic content
A seemingly harmless event meant to promote local artists and vendors during the Christmas season is getting some backlash online.
Terrain Spokane hosted “Brrrzaar” at River Park Square all day Saturday with vendors and musicians at the mall and family-friendly activities at the Mobius children's museum.
The event featured a “Bad Santa” later in the evening.
According to the Facebook event for the Brrrzaar, “Bad Santa” photos were available from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. People could get their picture taken with Bad Santa in the same chair that the children’s Santa uses in the center of the mall for $10.
A woman posted on social media about the Santa and said he was “drinking a bottle of vodka, (had) a cigar in mouth, calling girls whores, and flipping people off.” She said she also witnessed Santa slap a woman’s bottom.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said there was an elf who was “also very inappropriate.” The woman said he was dragging a head around on a leash and was wearing a mask that only showed his eyes and tongue.
The woman said, “I think River Park Square should be ashamed for allowing a “Bad Santa” at their mall... especially at 9:00 p.m. with many children present.”
Another person commenting on her post said, “This is horrible! I agree that this needed to be held somewhere else if it was to happen. I can't believe they would allow that for ALL of public to see.... a lot of parents took their kids to the brrzar even in the evening."
One woman also called it "very inappropriate" saying, “You should show this to mall management. Bad taste. In Christmas season people take children out late to get things done. This belongs in a bar not at a mall. Who ever thought this would be a good idea shouldn’t be in management.”
KREM reached out to the host of the event, Terrain, about the Santa's behavior.
“First and foremost, we want to apologize if Bad Santa offended anyone. We knew this might push some people’s comfort levels, but had absolutely no intention to make anyone upset,” said co-founder Ginger Ewing.
Ewing said the “Bad Santa” photos were advertised extensively and took place mostly after mall hours.
“Parameters were set for a PG-13 audience and also included no swearing. For the most part, we had a ton of positive response. 70 different groups took photos in that short-time frame (some of which included younger folks and their parents) and no one who actually participated in the photos has given us negative feedback,” Ewing said.
She said the actor playing “Bad Santa” denied some of the behavior described in social media posts. Ewing said he admitted to “flipping the bird a few times.” He told her he felt that was in line with the character he was hired to play.
“We had two staff members — one on hand the entire time, and one on hand part of the time — who did not observe most of the truly bad behavior described in the Facebook post. If we had seen it, we would’ve taken immediate action,” Ewing explained. “If and when we are ever to do something like this again, we’ll without a doubt, need to do more notification about the tone of the event and the times in which it takes place, set clearer parameters, and monitor the situation more carefully. We’ve taken people’s responses to heart and will use this feedback moving forward.”
KREM also reached out to River Park Square. The mall declined to comment.