IATSE Uncorks On BottleRock

A month after glowing reviews of the May 8-12 BottleRock Napa Valley festival in California’s wine country, a storm is brewing over unpaid bills including a reported $630,000 owed to more than 140 union stagehands.

And they’re not the only ones waiting for checks. There are reports of bounced checks, missed payments and unpaid charities amassing as patience wears thin among vendors and others who helped make “Northern California’s Coachella” happen.

Headliners The Black KeysKings of LeonZac Brown Band, The Avett Brothers, and Macklemore + Ryan Lewis, some 60 other artists and scores of top-end restaurants and wineries turned the five-day event into what seemed like a smash first-year success.

But an apparent financial dispute between BottleRock organizers – including Bob Vogt and Gabe Meyers, who operate Napa’s Uptown Theatre – and restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn, whose catering company managed F&B service, threatens to overshadow what was, at least from a fan perspective, a successful event.

More than 100,000 attended BottleRock, according to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.  Festival passes sold for north of $300, and many of the famed Napa Valley’s top restaurateurs and wineries were on hand to make BottleRock as much of a food festival as a music one. But something went sideways.

San Francisco’s International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 16 filed a grievance requesting payment of wages and benefit s for its members, according to the Napa Valley Register.  Local president Jim Beaumonte told the paper the workers should have been paid no later than May 24 through a company called Island Creative Management.

Vogt blames restaurant group CP Cooks LLC for the holdup. Food and beverage gross revenue totaled $7 million to $8 million, and the festival hasn’t received its portion of the proceeds.

“That was the money we needed to pay the union labor and other expenses such as sound and audio equipment,” Vogt told the Register. Also unpaid is the money promised to local charities.

The artists themselves have reportedly been paid in full. Sheila Groves-Tracy of Notable Talent booked the stellar lineup and managed to avoid the after-show fallout being experienced by vendors and other festival staff and crew.

BottleRock was a unique event for region, taking place on the Napa Valley Expo fairground site. Hotels were booked solid, and multiday passes reportedly sold for as much as $600.

Yet there were reports of first-year problems, which is a given for any festival of that scale, but some were unique. Reports of $700 cases of wine being given away behind the scenes probably wouldn’t be heard at Coachella, for instance. One source told Pollstar there was a complaint of a “security guard” collecting VIP tickets in a parking lot.

But that can’t account for the discrepancies being reported. The comments sections of local newspapers and Facebook pages indicate there’s a lot of angry people out there besides the 142 IATSE crew who are still waiting to be paid. And Vogt and CP Cook’s Sean Knight are taking jabs at each other in the press.

Vogt reportedly hopes to raise money from new investors to pay the 2013 bills.

In the meantime, it’s been announced there will be a BottleRock 2014 in Napa Valley, and the festival website has $329 ticket packages already on sale. It’s not clear that permits have been secured for the Napa Valley Expo site for next year’s announced festival.