LouFest Canceled Days Before St. Louis Festival To Kick-Off

LouFest producer Listen Live Entertainment announced the Sept. 8-9 festival was canceled because of “several financial hurdles,” with the news posted online just three days before the event was supposed to take place. 

An open letter from Listen Live Entertainment managing partner Mike Van Hee noted that the  company didn’t “currently have the funds to issue refunds” but that Front Gate Tickets would be refunding all fans in full. The ticketing company, a subsidiary of Ticketmaster, says that refunds will be processed Sept. 5 and that fans should allow seven to 10 days for refunds to appear on credit card statements or PayPal accounts.   
“The loss of two of the event’s top sponsors, scheduling and contract issues with major
artists, and existing debt from previous events have all put immense pressure on the balance sheet,” Van Hee wrote. “Overcoming those setbacks while trying to grow the Fest has been a challenge, one that LouFest was on target to meet until a bit of unfortunately timed media coverage caused many of our vendors and artists to demand up-front payment just days before gates were set to open. LouFest simply couldn’t make that happen.”
The media coverage Van Hee refers to in the open letter presumably includes a Sept. 4 story by the St. Louis Business Journal that reports that one of the producer’s old firms faces tax liens and was dissolved by the state. 
Van Hee’s letter also points a finger at “the fickle St. Louis weather,” explaining that while presale ticket sales have been “fantastic … the festival does rely on walkups to be financially successful.” He adds that if the festival encountered stormy weekend like it did in 2016, it would be damaging to attendance and harm the venue.    
Pollstar reached out to Van Hee for additional comment but he was not immediately available. It is unclear if the festival is filing for bankruptcy or if there is a chance it could return in 2019.   
St. Louis Public Radio KWMU reported on the impact the festival has had on local vendors such as Steve’s Hot Dogs owner Steve Ewing, who said he hasn’t heard if his $3,000 registration fee will be refunded. KWMU also spoke to Charles Brown, owner of Regency Enterprises Services, which has had the yearly $20,000 contract for trash removal at LouFest. He noted that he had been waiting to receive a deposit for the 2018 event before committing to the job. 

“What’s been happening the last two or three years is the final invoice [payment] hasn’t been coming for a long time,” Brown told KWMU. “In fact it hasn’t come until the month before or sometimes the week before the next event. So it’s [being paid] about a year out.” 

LouFest, which launched in 2010, has never submitted reports to Pollstar’s Boxoffice. Van Hee’s letter says the festival brought an estimated $8 million in revenue to the region annually. 
St. Louis Business Journal points out that LouFest was previously produced with C3 Presents until 2016. That was the same year that LouFest founder Brian Cohen sold his stake in Listen Live Entertainment. 

Cohen, who launched a one-off music, arts and technology festival in St. Louis named Murmuration Festival in 2016, left the music business for politics and is now the finance director for a U.S. congressional campaign, according to the St. Louis Jewish Light.