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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.

"The whole thing leaves you sick to your stomach," he said.

Mike Sommers, a stagehand from Santa Rosa who helped rig the massive six-story main BottleRock stage, said the work involved long hours in dangerous conditions.

"We gave them everything they wanted and more, and now we're getting completely stiffed," he said.

Garland and Sommers said they filed claims with the California Department of Industrial Relations seeking payment and late penalties.

Garland said he also sent a demand letter to Island Creative Management, which he said handled payroll for stage technicians.

An employee at the San Francisco company who described himself Tuesday as the operations coordinator and gave his first name as Duke said the company's lawyers "are handling it" and declined further comment.

Vogt said stagehands have not been paid because the festival has yet to receive its cut of food and beverage sales, which he said will be used to cover that amount.

He blamed the delay on Sean Knight, who manages Cindy Pawlcyn's catering company, saying Knight is in "breach of contract" for allegedly failing to provide a full accounting of food and beverage sales to BottleRock organizers by May 27.

"We're working hard to reconcile that situation," Vogt said.

Knight on Tuesday, however, disputed Vogt's version of events.

"They were given all of the accounting on May 24. They don't agree with the accounting. That's what the discussion has been about," he said.

Knight said he was prevented by the terms of a confidentiality agreement from discussing details of the contract the two parties signed.

But he said profit from food and beverage sales at BottleRock "would not even come close" to covering what stage technicians are owed for working the event.

How much money is to be given to charities through beverage sales also is in dispute.

Vogt said the agreement called for $1 from every beverage sold to be set aside as a charitable contribution, including for Autism Chords, a nonprofit group he established in honor of his 21-year-old son, Will.

The son also was the inspiration for Willpower Entertainment, the limited liability corporation Vogt and Meyers formed to manage BottleRock. Vogt said that organization is now under the wing of BR Festivals LLC.

Combined with proceeds from beverage sales, $1 from each BottleRock ticket sold and an auction, Vogt and Meyers were hoping to give as much as $1 million to numerous charities.

Knight, however, said BottleRock's food and beverage contract with Fish Market LLC, which Pawlcyn created for the event, does not address the $1 beverage set-aside. He said his request to see BottleRock's contracts with the nonprofit groups was denied on confidentiality grounds.

"Our concern is that we want to make sure the money is going to the nonprofits," Knight said.

He said lawyers and accountants for both sides are meeting to try and resolve the disputes.

BottleRock has paid nearly $442,000 to the state-owned expo for hosting the event, and owes a final payment of $310,938 by June 24, according to Joe Anderson, the expo's CEO.

The city of Napa has been paid $262,788 for services including police and fire, and is owed an additional $106,729 by July 11, City Manager Mike Parness said.

The city sponsored two forums to solicit feedback about BottleRock from residents and business owners. Parness said the City Council will discuss the event at an upcoming meeting.

Meyers announced from the stage on the last day of this year's festival that he and Vogt are planning to bring the event to Napa again next year over Mother's Day weekend. Three-day passes costing $329 already are available for purchase.

You can reach Staff Writer DerekMoore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

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