More than a month after the festival’s conclusion, BottleRock organizers have yet to pay 142 union workers $630,000 in wages as well as a number of other vendors who worked at the five-day music festival.
BottleRock co-founder Bob Vogt said he is actively courting investors in hopes of paying off his creditors, making promised charitable donations and planning BottleRock 2014.
According to International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 16 president Jim Beaumonte, the San Francisco-based union has filed a grievance against BottleRock requesting payment of wages and benefits for its members. The workers should have been paid by May 24 through a company called Island Creative Management, said Beaumonte.
A call to Island Creative Management for comment on Tuesday was not returned.
“We’re taking steps to rectify this,” Beaumonte said in a brief interview Wednesday. “We have a grievance process” that will be followed, he said.
Vogt said the festival has been unable to pay those wages and other expenses because it hasn’t received the revenue owed from the festival’s food and beverage concessions managed by Cindy Pawlcyn’s restaurant group CP Cooks LLC. Vogt said CP Cooks had not provided him a timely account of the finances from the event.
Vogt estimated that gross revenue from food and beverage from the festival reached between $7 million and $8 million and BottleRock is entitled to a portion of those proceeds. “That was the money we needed to pay the union labor and other expenses such as sound and audio equipment” as well as the donations promised to a group of nonprofits, Vogt said. Those nonprofits, which have been promised as much as $1 million total, are scheduled to receive their donations in July, he said.
Sean Knight of CP Cooks disputes Vogt’s statement.
“We’re not withholding money from BottleRock,” said Knight on Tuesday. The requested accounting documentation was sent to BottleRock on time and “right now the accounting shows that they are not owed any additional money,” he said.
While the contract has a confidentiality agreement, Knight said that all of the food and beverage vendors that the restaurant group contracted with have been paid.
Knight said the dispute revolves around the money to be paid to the nonprofits and how that $1 per beverage donation has been accounted for. “Now it’s between attorneys and CPAs,” Knight said.
In addition to the issue with CP Cooks, some bigger beverage sponsors such as Anheuser-Busch and Pernod Ricard have yet to pay invoices, Vogt said.
“We threw a great party …To be in a situation where there is a delay in settling our bills is not something we envisioned,” Vogt said. “We deeply regret being put in this spot,” but “we’re confident this will be resolved.”
Union stagehand John Garland said he worked for six days at BottleRock and has yet to be paid. He’s owed $4,040, he said. “I did the work, I’m missing the check,” he said.
“I’m really disappointed because we do these shows frequently and everyone else has always paid us,” he said, giving examples of Outside Lands, the Rolling Stones and Metallica concerts. “It’s a shame this new entity which is really trying to make a name for itself has ended up disappointing all of us who worked so hard to make their show a success.”
Some workers are going straight to the state of California in hopes of getting paid. According to one wage claim filed at the Santa Rosa office of the California Department of Industrial Relations, plaintiff Jack Haye claims more than $8,300 in wages and overtime having worked from April 31 to May 15 for BottleRock.
Vogt said a number of potential partners have expressed interest in investing in the festival. “We have multiple proposals that we are considering from quality equity partners,” including some from outside the country, he said.
He does not plan to sell the festival, Vogt noted. “We always envisioned we’d bring in partners,” he said. “With or without them we will meet our obligations but we welcome the right partner.”
“Ninety percent of all BottleRock expenses have been paid and the rest will be paid soon,” Vogt said. “Anybody we owe money to will be paid when we get our accounting” (from CP Cooks) or “from funds from a new equity partner or another lender or friend of BottleRock or investor, and soon,” Vogt said.
“We hope people will allow us a short amount of time to resolve any outstanding issues,” Vogt said.
“We are not sitting on a bunch of money and not paying people,” Vogt added. Neither Vogt nor partner Gabe Meyers have been personally paid from the event, he said.
Other workers and vendors also report unpaid invoices. A business owner who said he was owed $70,000 for work at BottleRock said he has yet to be paid in the time promised. That vendor did not want to be identified because of fear of being blacklisted for upcoming events.
“I’m upset about it,” the vendor said. “It’s money that’s gone. There’s no way for me to get it back.”
The vendor said Vogt told him “he ‘hopes’ we will get paid. But I can’t replace my bank account with hopes and dreams.”
Another vendor who did not want to be identified for the same reason said he got some of the money he was owed, but not all. He was paid a deposit before the show, as requested, the vendor said.
“I was owed the rest at the end of the show and I didn’t get that,” he said. The amount owed is about $5,000, he said.
“It’s unfortunate that there were some money challenges,” said the vendor, who noted that sometimes he has to wait to get paid. “I’m hoping they will be able to get it worked out.”
Vogt understands why some vendors would be upset about not being paid on time. “Give us a little bit of time to solve this,” he said.
In addition to the unpaid invoices, Vogt admitted that “a few” checks paid by BottleRock have been returned for insufficient funds. The festival used several banking accounts and transferred money between them, he said.
“We did something really big and really fast with a lot of moving parts (and) every so often” a check bounced, Vogt said. “No one from our company would ever send out a check knowing that the funds weren’t there,” he said.
“There are one or two (checks) that aren’t good right now, but we expect them to be made right very soon,” he said.
Vogt said one check written for $1,000 to Napa Parks and Recreation had been returned for insufficient funds. Originally written in February, it was not cashed until the end of May, he said. By then money had been transferred from that one account, which caused the check to be returned, he said. However, the vast number of checks” have been paid correctly, he said.
Hal Muskat owns Cajun Queen, a food vendor that originally paid a $3,000 deposit to serve food at BottleRock. He was then told there wasn’t enough room for him at the festival. Three weeks later, his deposit was returned, but the check bounced, Muskat said.
That bounced check caused his own banking problems that took days to work out, he said. After some prodding on his part, BottleRock eventually paid him his refund with a cashier’s check. “I had to eat the bounced check fee,” Muskat said.
George Edwards and his crew of 48 workers from Delicate Productions installed and operated all the sound, lights and video for all stages and grounds at BottleRock. He’s been paid the 50 percent deposit he requested and BottleRock has honored his agreement to date, Edwards said. His final payment is due June 27, he said.
Edwards said he has done other projects with Vogt and co-producer Gabe Meyers “and we had no issues getting paid.”
“I’d love for BottleRock to continue. From our perspective we hit it out of the park,” he said.
The city of Napa issued its final invoice to BottleRock Tuesday afternoon, said Recreation Supervisor Kelly Abernathy. BottleRock’s bill for city services totaled $369,518.
Of that, $262,789 has been paid, Abernathy said. The remaining $106,730 is due July 11.
At the end of May, Napa Valley Expo CEO Joe Anderson said BottleRock’s total bill would be more than $752,000. As of May 28, the Expo had received about $442,000. Anderson did not return requests for an updated number this week.
The California Highway Patrol said it has been paid in full by BottleRock, but was unable to provide the reimbursement amount by Wednesday, said Officer Anna Paulson.
Some Facebook users have complained on the BottleRock Facebook page that BottleRock is selling tickets to 2014 events when the bills for 2013 have yet to be paid.
“Any money from tickets sold for 2014 is being held by the ticket processing company,” Vogt said.
“We’ve made our share of mistakes. We’re a first-year festival but we’re proud of what we accomplished,” Vogt said.
The five-day music marathon became the largest event in Napa history, bringing tens of thousands of music lovers to the Expo grounds from May 8 to 12. Attendance was estimated to reach more than 120,000. Neighbors and downtown businesses grappled with the influx of visitors, some benefiting more than others.
Regardless of challenges, Vogt is optimistic about a second BottleRock.
“When we take care of this, we’ll be announcing headliners for next year and we look forward to working with the Expo,” he said.
Register reporter Chantal Lovell contributed to this story.