Knitting Factory Sues Wilma Owner

Knitting Factory Presents has filed suit against the owner of , alleging he’s attempted to eliminate “competition in the Missoula, Montana, entertainment market and to profit personally through his closely held entities.”

Knitting Factory had booked shows at The Wilma under a management agreement until March, when Nick Checota, who also owns the city’s Top Hat Lounge, purchased the 1,400-capacity venue. Following the sale, Checota continued to work with Knitting Factory – until he was sued – as well as other promoters in the region to book the room.

But according to court documents obtained by the Missoulian, KFP’s attorneys claim ticket prices have been affected and argue The Wilma is “a market in and of itself” in Missoula, explaining other venues in the city are unusable for part of the year, too large, too small, or prohibit certain age groups. “In contrast to these other venues, the Wilma is an indoor, year-round venue, suitable for all types of entertainment, and suitable for all ages. These are options that must be available to entertainment promoters in order to compete in the Missoula market,” the suit says. “Having the ability to access all venues within a larger market, and a particular venue of unique status and offerings, are key components for promoters in the entertainment industry in Missoula.

“That [Knitting Factory] has access to other venues does not mean that its loss of access to the Wilma does not hurt its ability to compete in the Missoula market,” they wrote. Attorneys for Checota disagree, arguing in that KFP has continued to promote concerts in the region and “Far from being stifled, competition in Missoula is actually dynamic and very healthy.”

Checota’s attorneys have also filed a counter-claim of restraint of trade, alleging Knitting Factory is now pressuring artists not to play Checota’s venues. “Since purchasing the Wilma Theatre, the Buyer Defendants have been specifically informed by the agents for bands or other promoters that [KFP] or its affiliates are putting a ‘radius clause’ into contracts, which is an express provision restricting them from playing concerts within the relevant market, specifically in Missoula at either the Top Hat or the Wilma Theatre,” the suit says.