Did we just witness Napa’s Woodstock?
Those who attended the enormous BottleRock music festival in May might want to store their ticket stubs and T-shirts in a safe place. They are collectibles from an event the Napa Valley may, unfortunately, never see again.
Most every little bump during the event and leading into it — and there were a few — could be excused as a growing pain or chalked up to hasty planning, problems easily rectified for next time.
But it’s become hard to imagine BottleRock’s next time after news surfaced last week that the fledgling, super-sized festival is late on several large payments and has bounced checks.
The biggest entertainment event the Napa Valley has ever dreamed up may have just gotten its wake-up call.
In explaining $630,000 in unpaid wages to stagehands and other problems with payments to vendors, festival organizer Bob Vogt pointed to a financial dispute with food and beverage vendor CP Cooks LLC.
A representative from CP Cooks said it does not owe BottleRock any additional money.
However and whenever that dispute is settled, it may still not provide enough capital to cover BottleRock’s remaining financial obligations, which still include more than $300,000 owed to the Napa Expo and a six-figure bill from the city of Napa.
Vogt said BottleRock is also owed money from two festival sponsors.
Hopefully, BottleRock organizers secure the funding necessary to meet the rest of their payments and meet their significant pledge to local charities.
But whatever the depth of BottleRock’s financial hole and whether digging out of it is realistic, the damage to the event’s reputation is of equal concern and the primary reason we fear for the festival’s future.
In the wake of this week’s news, some have argued that inaugural events of this magnitude are destined to lose money for a few years while working to establish themselves.
That’s likely true. But there is a difference between losing money and not paying your bills.
Especially when those bills include workforce wages.
With close to 150 union workers still waiting for checks three weeks after payment was due, it is hard to imagine how the festival would be able to secure that labor for the next edition of BottleRock. They’ll certainly want money — or a bond — up front. Where will that money come from?
Some vendors are also still waiting for 2013 payments, and some have received checks from BottleRock that have been returned for insufficient funds.
Whatever the cause of these financial travails, they’ve stained the festival, quite possibly beyond repair.
We hope we’re wrong. BottleRock was a tremendous addition to the Napa Valley calendar. The music, spectacle and economic impact of the event was phenomenal.
Residents around the Napa Expo will tell you it wasn’t perfect, too loud and too disruptive. But thanks to local and contract law enforcement and medical personnel, it was safe. And the vast majority of those in attendance would agree, it was great fun.
Local government services, businesses, festival volunteers and staff members were tested by unprecedented crowds and traffic and responded in a manner we can all be proud of.
It was truly a wonderful event.
How sad, then, that this latest financial chapter could ultimately become BottleRock’s legacy.