BottleRock Woes Mount

The Napa City Council has taken up the saga of BottleRock, the California music, food and wine festival that debuted in May but has left a swath of unpaid bills, lawsuits and alleged rubber checks in its wake.

A bit of good news in the aftermath is that all of the artists have reportedly been paid in full. But many others – including 142 IATSE stagehands, vendors and production-related companies – still await a payday.

Also awaiting payment at press time are the City of Napa ($106,730) and Napa Valley Expo ($310,938), which hosted the festival, according to the Napa Valley Register. The paper estimates the festival’s outstanding debts have climbed to more than $2.5 million. BottleRock’s tab for city services including police, fire and public works staff was $369,518, and organizers did pay $262,789 to cover the application fee and 66 percent of estimated costs.

However, a final payment due date of July 12 came and went without reimbursement, according to the paper. At least four lawsuits have now been filed but one – filed by the father of one of the BottleRock cofounders – is expected to be withdrawn.

Emil “Corky” Meyers, the father of BottleRock organizer Gabe Meyers, filed suit in Napa County Superior Court July 10 claiming he was owed more than $100,000 for a last-minute loan to help cover expenses during the May 9-12 festival, almost $70,000 in other invoices, and $5,000 for a short-term cash loan.

The $100,000 loan is reportedly not due until Aug. 14, and while it wasn’t clear why Corky Meyers filed the claim, he’s told the Register it is in the process of being dismissed.

His attorney, Ronda Connor, confirmed to the paper that she was preparing to file the necessary paperwork. At least Meyers can’t be accused of piling on. Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation and NES West Security filed suit in June over nonpayment, and Landmark Event Staffing Services reportedly filed a complaint July 12, alleging breach of contract and fraud, among other claims, and seeks $166,164 plus punitive damages.

The fallout has reportedly moved beyond the civil courts and could end up in criminal court as well.

The Napa Police Department has received at least two complaints alleging bad checks were written by the BottleRock festival.

Police are said to be in the initial stages of investigating claims by food vendor Cajun Queen and NES West. Cajun Queen owner Hal Muskat told the Register that he applied to be a food vendor at BottleRock and paid a $3,000 deposit. However, when he wasn’t accepted as a vendor, the check written to reimburse his deposit was allegedly returned unpaid.

NES West VP Christy Feener filed a police complaint after being given two checks – one on the festival’s opening day and the other two days later – which both bounced. Sources have told Pollstar that cofounders Bob Vogt and Gabe Meyers have approached deeper-pocketed concert promotion companies in an attempt to sell the festival. By press time, those all appeared to be dead in the water.

Vogt and Meyers continue to seek outside investment to at least get the bills paid.

“We have been working very hard and are very close to reaching an agreement to remedy our payables,” Meyers told the Register. “We’re hopefully very close to ending this saga and moving forward.”

In the meantime, the Napa City Council addressed BottleRock publicly for the first time – but not because of its tangled finances or even the money the city itself is owed. The council took a large chunk of its regular July 23 meeting to debrief on BottleRock’s effects on nearby neighborhoods and how to handle future large events at the Napa Valley Expo.

The council is still considering whether to contract for a future BottleRock, even though tickets for a 2014 festival are already on sale at north of $300 each.

The Expo, which is a fairground with State of California oversight, has not yet approved a contract to host a 2014 BottleRock. Much of the council discussion focused on improving communications with the Napa Valley Expo Board of Directors, its authority in limiting the number of days and events at the Expo, and mitigating traffic and noise around events.

Standards and guidelines were suggested by council staff to address the latter, including establishing maximum noise limits, discouraging use of helicopters, mitigating parking impacts and requirement of full payment in advance of estimated city costs prior to special events.