Too Many Chefs May Spoil Palazzo

German promoter Folkert Koopmans may not need to take legal action to stop a Copenhagen businessman from starting his own “Palazzo”-branded gourmet theatre evenings in Denmark, but he’s worried about the damage that’s already been done to the trademark name.

Koopmans, who promotes a handful of major German festivals including Hurricane, Southside, Highfield, M’Era Luna and Chiemsee Reggae, has run dinner theatre events under the Palazzo name for eight years.

He became worried when he learned that two similarly named “Palazzo Varieté Teater” evenings were springing up in Denmark.

Local Copenhagen suppliers were already having doubts about Christian Friis and his Palazzo evenings in Bellahoej and Charlottenlund Fort when he appeared to pull the plug on one of them. Friis is also known as Robert or Roberto Friis.

Friis has withdrawn his application to have the Palazzo-style dinners at Charlottenlund Fort, an exclusive Copenhagen suburb.

Kirsten Olsen from the city council “roads and parks” department that deals with licenses told Pollstar that an application from a registered Danish company called Palazzo Varieté Teater to run the event Nov. 1-20 had been turned down because it was for a paid entertainment.

She confirmed the application was then re-submitted under the name of a non-profit charity foundation called HC Andersens Venner (Friends Of Hans Christian Andersen). She said it was under consideration when it was withdrawn by a lady named Helle Larsen, a previously known associate of Friis.

Koopmans told Pollstar he’s relieved that he may not have to go through the hassle of getting legal injunctions to stop the events, but he’s worried about how this apparent fiasco may damage his Palazzo brand in Scandinavia.

He’s concerned that some people may have already bought tickets.

Copenhagen would appear to be a prime start for Scandinavian expansion, particularly as it’s less than 200 miles from Koopmans’ Hamburg base.

Koopmans, one of the major German concert promoters to have sold half of their companies to ticketing giant CTS Eventim and formed The Medusa Group, began his Palazzo evenings in cahoots with Michelin Three-Star chef Harald Wohlfahrt in Hamburg in 2002.

The evening combined first-class light entertainment, music and, of course, that high-quality four-course meal prepared by Wohlfahrt, generally recognised as one of the country’s top chefs.

Working with local partners and some of Europe’s top chefs, Koopmans and Wohlfahrt have since grown the brand and staged Palazzo evenings throughout Germany.

Apart from staging a series of them in cities including Hannover, Mannheim, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, and Berlin, there have also been Palazzo evenings in Amsterdam, Zurich, Prague, and Vienna.

At press time, it wasn’t possible to discover if tickets for Friis’ Charlottenlund Fort run are still on sale.

A similar license application for either Palazzo Varieté Teater or HC Andersens Venner to stage a series off Palazzo evenings at Bellahoej is believed to be with that district council’s licensing department. It wasn’t possible to get comment from the Bellahoej area council at press time.

Less than a year ago, Friis and Larsen – his business partner and the mother of his child – were featured in a Danish consumer watchdog TV programme called “Operation X.”

They were alleged to have collected pictures from European painters for a huge exhibition and sale. Some of the painters claimed they hadn’t seen any money from the sale of their paintings nor had any of their unsold paintings been returned.

“When he first came to me he said he was the owner of the Palazzo brand, but now it seems that not even that bit is true,” said Thomas Tramberg of VIP, a reputable Copenhagen catering company that provides top chefs to cook for top stars.

Tramberg, whose company also supplies the VIP catering when Live Nation promotes a Cirque du Soleil run, was hired do the cooking for both the “Palazzo Varieté” evenings.

He says Friis hasn’t broken any financial terms of the contract but he is concerned about “so many worrying stories.”

To assist with the pre-planning of the catering, Tramberg says Friis was due to supply him with ticket sales as of Oct. 1. He says he still has no idea of the minimum number of gourmet four-course meals he’s expected to prepare. He’s been e-mailing and phoning Friis for a week and hasn’t gotten a response. He says he’s not confident either event will go ahead.

Jesper Nielsen, vice president of events company Bournon Villes, had also been discussing working with Friis. He became suspicious of the setup when he visited, Koopmans’ official Palazzo Web site, and couldn’t find any mention of any Danish events.