A new group of organizers announced Monday that the BottleRock music festival will return to the Napa Valley Expo as a three-day event starting May 30.
Known as Latitude 38 Entertainment, or L38, the group said it had bought “selected assets” from the former promoter, BR Festivals, which racked up at least $5.5 million in outstanding debts and multiple lawsuits for breach of contract when it put on last May’s music extravaganza.
Latitude 38 has acquired the BottleRock name and a $15,000 deposit with the Expo for this year’s event. They also bought “some festival equipment and fixtures,” said David Graham, a local entrepreneur who is in partnership with three other Napans, Jason Scoggins, Joe Fischer and Justin Dragoo.
Latitude 38 did not purchase BR Festivals’ liabilities or obligations “and does not control how BR Festivals handles its debts,” said a news release from the group.
The lineup of musicians and artists to perform at BottleRock 2014 will be announced at the end of February or early March, he said.
While he couldn’t name any names this week, Graham said, “People that went last year will be happy” with the music selection in 2014. “We plan on meeting or exceeding” the bar set in 2013 with a “solid” lineup.
Graham detailed other changes. BottleRock 2014 will be three days instead of last year’s four and a half, more than 36 bands will perform (compared to more than 60 in 2013), but there will be no comedic talent. Neighborhood concerns about loud sound will be addressed, he said.
The VIP program will be enhanced. Ticket prices will be comparable. Camping will be available at Skyline Park. Both paid staff and volunteers will be used to run the event, he said.
Food, wine and beverages will be available and include partnerships with local businesses, he said. Entry, exit and transportation plans haven’t been finalized. Newly named to the planning team is festival director Steve Macfadyen.
According to many, BottleRock 2013 suffered from overly ambitious goals, last-minute planning and disorganization. When asked if there was enough time between now and late May to put together another festival, Graham said “absolutely. We have a blueprint of what worked and didn’t work from last year. We can avoid those painful mistakes.”
As for tickets that have already been pre-sold for 2014, Latitude 38 will honor or refund all tickets already purchased, Graham said. He would not say how many have already been sold or how many the group hopes to sell.
Graham said he understands that some people, especially creditors, feel burned by BottleRock 2013. What happened to those vendors “is completely unfair,” he said. “We’re sympathetic. We’re willing to step up and make this situation a little more palatable.”
The original BottleRock was founded by two Napans, Gabe Meyers and Bob Vogt. Meyers said that BR Festivals is “likely” to file for bankruptcy protection.
In a letter to BR Festivals’ creditors dated Jan. 27, Meyers wrote that through the bankruptcy process “we hope to pursue viable litigation claims which will generate sufficient funds to pay a substantial portion of your outstanding invoice.”
“I am deeply sorry BR Festivals was not able to pay you in full,” wrote Meyers, who said he is not a manager or investor in Latitude 38.
According to the United States Bankruptcy Court website, as of Tuesday, BR Festivals had not filed for bankruptcy protection.
Graham said Latitude 38 hoped to ease the losses suffered by last year’s creditors by creating “customized operations agreements with certain key vendors” from BottleRock 2013, “helping make a difficult and unfair situation less difficult and unfair to them.”
“Everyone thinks that just because we bought the name (that) we bought the company. We didn’t buy” BR Festivals, Graham said. “We didn’t absorb a single liability.”
While Latitude 38 said that it doesn’t control the finances of BR Festivals, the group has worked to help eliminate $3.7 million, or what amounts to “over half” of the organization’s debt, “enhancing the future recovery of BR Festival creditors.”
When asked why Latitude 38 wanted to help reduce debt for something that’s not its financial responsibility, Graham said: “We wanted to help better the position of creditors ... many of whom are from Napa. We live in Napa and are from Napa. We can see and feel the difficult position that many BR Festival creditors have found themselves in.”
Graham would not elaborate on how BR Festival’s debts had been reduced.
Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union Local 16, who were owed money from the first BottleRock, have already agreed to work with Latitude 38, said Graham.
Jason Alt, president of Delicate Productions, another vendor from 2013, said his business would also participate. “We’re all in for 2014,” said Alt.
Sponsors of BottleRock 2014 said they had considered several different dates including a later June weekend, the last weekend in May was chosen to avoid conflicts with other events, such as NASCAR racing and Memorial Day weekend.
Until Latitude 38 stepped in, other festival promoters including Live Nation made overtures to buy the festival but ultimately walked away. The future of BottleRock was looking dim until the local partnership put together a deal for BottleRock 2.0.
The release for BottleRock 2014 noted that Scoggins is himself a BR Festivals creditor. According to the information, Scoggins loaned the festival $600,000 which was used to pay artists who performed in 2013.
Vogt could not be immediately reached for comment on Tuesday morning. In November he announced he had voluntarily resigned as a manager of BR Festivals.