Organizers of Napa's BottleRock festival are running into financial difficulties, including an outstanding debt of $630,000 owed to more than 140 stage technicians, a month after the music event roared into Wine Country.
The problems involve a financial dispute between BottleRock organizers and restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn, whose catering company managed food and beverage service during the five-day festival.
Napa's Bob Vogt, one of BottleRock's organizers, said the money owed to stagehands is a "small amount compared to the bills" he said he and partner Gabe Meyers already have paid to put on the inaugural music event, which drew crowds in excess of 100,000 to Napa on May8-12.
Vogt said the outstanding debt to stagehands is "one we take seriously. We're going to make sure everyone gets paid."
Even though the money owed is a small part of BottleRock's overall budget, the lost income represents a sizeable paycheck to the 142 stage technicians who have not been paid for work they did in late April and early May.
John Garland, who helped with video production at BottleRock, said he's owed more than $4,000. He said he and other nonmanagement stagehands earn $34.56 an hour.
"We've got bills just like everyone else. You just can't drop a sum of money that size or pull it out of your savings," said Garland, who lives in San Rafael.
More big bills are coming due for BottleRock organizers. Vogt and Meyers also have until July 1 to make good on a promise they made prior to BottleRock's debut to donate as much as $1 million to a number of charities.
"We regret that anyone has to wait for anything," Vogt said.
Music industry experts say it's not uncommon for festivals the size of BottleRock to experience growing pains in the initial year. But the financial problems play into the hands of critics who said Vogt and Meyers were overselling their ability to do everything they said they would.
BottleRock was an unprecedented happening for Napa that drew tens of thousands of rock fans from the around the world to jam with 60 bands at a location that normally hosts a town fair, bingo games and crab feeds. By contrast, multiday passes for BottleRock went for as much as $600.
Organizers of the event, which resulted in no-vacancy signs posted at hotels throughout Napa Valley, promised a boon to the local economy and for the large workforce needed to turn the Napa Valley Expo into an outdoor rock 'n' roll venue fit for the likes of the Alabama Shakes and Kings of Leon.
Vogt said all the artists who played at the event have been paid what they were owed. That's not been the case for the men and women who created and operated the stages where they performed.
The union representing stage technicians who worked the event filed a grievance with BottleRock organizers May 27 over the past-due amount owed them, according to Jim Beaumonte, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 16.
He said 142 stagehands collectively are owed $630,000 in wages and benefits. He said some workers have not been paid since April 30, when work on the festival's installation at the expo began.
Beaumonte said a payment problem of this magnitude "never happens" in the theatrical and music world.