Promoter Can’t Buy Town

When the city of Lithonia, Ga., couldn’t pay its bills, a local promoter had a couple of suggestions – including accepting his offer to buy the town.

Jason Lary, a real estate investor, has been producing dance records since the ’80s and last year began a summer concert series at Lithonia’s 11,000-capacity Stewart Amphitheatre. He was counting on city police to man his event.

However, the city is still operating on its 2004 budget and recently could not pay a $40,000 automobile insurance bill, which grounded its three police cruisers. In fact, Lithonia Police Chief Willie Rosser said he had to use his own car on two 911 calls in the Atlanta suburb, which has a population of 2,140.

DeKalb County police have had to handle calls or drive Lithonia’s police officers to calls.

Lary was hoping to solve the problem before his concert season starts June 4th with Najee and Pieces Of A Dream. At a city council meeting, he offered to pay his 2005 lease up front – $12,500 – plus float the city a $30,000, 60-day, no-interest loan.

“They had a piece of property that was across the street from the amphitheatre that was surplus,” the promoter told Pollstar. “If they couldn’t pay me back in 60 days, that would be fine. Just sign the surplus building over to me, which they were putting up for auction anyway, and then I can build a ticket office. That way, everybody can win.”

He added that the building had less value than the loan.

Reports said residents disapproved of Lary’s initial offer, but the promoter contends the citizens and Mayor Donald Honore were with him at first.

“People were pleading with [the City Council], ‘Why won’t you do it? Why won’t you do it?’ and we couldn’t get answers out of them,” Lary said.

He believes the city has a problem with land ownership, versus leasing.

“So that was my first offer,” he said. “My second offer was to buy the city for a million dollars. I’ll buy the whole town. I got booed out of the room for that. I could have sold tickets to that one.”

Lary wanted to buy all the unsold real estate, refinance it and sell it back to Lithonia.

Meanwhile, he has resolved his security issue because the DeKalb County police have committed to patrol his events.

The promoter has made $25,000 in improvements to the venue since he began the series, including electrical and plumbing repair, he said. The city gets parking revenue in addition to the lease.

This year’s Lithonia Jazz and R&B series, which includes Will Downing, Howard Hewett, Michael Franks, Alex Bugnon, Little Richard, and K-Ci & JoJo, runs through September.