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LouFest Cancelled

LouFest 2018 cancelled after 'several financial hurdles'

Despite assurances from organizers as recently as four days ago that things were on track, the festival was called off leaving many wondering what happened and where we go from here

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ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Just before 2 a.m. on Wednesday, LouFest organizers announced the 2018 event that was set for September 8-9 is canceled.

Listen Live Entertainment issued a statement about the cancellation. In it the company said LouFest had "several financial hurdles, including the loss of two of the event's top sponsors, scheduling and contract issues with major artists and existing debt from previous events."

We are sad to announce that LouFest 2018 has been cancelled. We know this is a great disappointment to many and that there has been wide speculation around our event. We want to share what’s been going on directly with you.

First, and as is usually the case when things like this happen, LouFest had several financial hurdles. 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.

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.

Second, the fickle St. Louis weather has made us extremely nervous. 2018 pre-sale ticket volume has been fantastic but the festival does rely on walkups to be financially successful. We know first-hand that a rain-soaked weekend like our event experienced in 2016 would both kill that traffic and do physical harm to Forest Park. We feel it would be irresponsible to continue to invest in an event that might not be able to realize its exceptional potential.

Although we don’t currently have the funds to issue refunds, the exceptional festival ticketing company we selected, Front Gate Tickets, owned by Live Nation and Ticketmaster, will be stepping up to refund all fans in full while we work to repay our debts.

We want to recognize the sponsors, vendors, partners, and fantastic team members who have been working around the clock in support of LouFest 2018. Producing this event has been a labor of love for our family and the staff – we see it as our gift to our music-loving city.

It has been thrilling to bring so much joy to fans, recognition to St. Louis, a spotlight to its artists, and an estimated $8 million in revenue to the region each year. For that, we will always be proud. 

Just days before the ninth year of LouFest, many fans still had not received wristbands for the festival. 

An email from Front Gate Tickets Tuesday night informed ticket purchasers that wristbands would not be mailed and instead could be picked up at will call. 

"Due to an unforeseen delay, we will be unable to mail out wristbands to those who chose mail delivery when purchasing their passes," read the email. 

This came just days after reports that contractors were backing out of the festival due to unpaid bills. 

Friday night, Listen Live owner Mike Van Hee told KMOV everything was on track. 

"We're on track, we're ahead of schedule, Main Stage rolls in on Tuesday," he said.

But, as of Tuesday, set up in Forest Park appeared minimal. 


Vendors lose thousands


Vendors who planned to set up shop at LouFest had to pay a fee to do so, and there's little indication they will be reimbursed. 

Arch Apparel, a St. Louis fashion company, paid $2,000 for space at the festival and expect that will be sunk cost. 

More importantly, they produced more than 1,500 items of merchandise for the festival, upping their inventory from last year because they purchased more space for this time around. 

The size of their tent at LouFest 2018 was set to be double the space of their showroom in Crestwood. 

The merchandise they produced to sell at the festival was worth $15,000 to $17,000. 

Owner Aaron Park said the company was disappointed with the cancellation, but blown away by the response from the St. Louis community and local businesses. 

Urban Chestnut, a vendor left with significant sunk costs from LouFest, has called on the city to rally around the vendors. A Co-founder of the brewery issued a statement saying the focus should be on Oktoberfest St. Louis, "our largest music and beer festival of the year."

"The city works best when we support each other, and we look forward to celebrating together," the statement said. 

Urban Chestnut also said they would waive the vendor fees for any LouFest vendors that would like to participate in Oktoberfest. 

"It's overwhelming. I swear that doesn't happen anywhere else in the world, a community rallying around a festival," Park said. "But at the same time its real people with real things going on as well."

Food vendors also ramped up production in anticipation of the festival, and legendary local deli Gioia's now has 700 pounds of hot salami they need to sell. 

Co-Owner Alex Donley, now dealing with overloaded fridges, said he woke up with a bad feeling. 

"The email was sent out at 2:30 in the morning and I woke up at 2:30 in a panic thinking there was something going on," he said. 

In addition to the food Gioia's made in preparation, they're also out $3,000 for the event fee, in addition to further costs.

"$2,000 for prep and equipment rental and all that stuff," Donley said. 

Other local restaurants have offered space in their freezers for the excess food, something Gioia's didn't have space for. Had they not found storage, all the food would have been lost. 

"Just from this morning until now the amount of support we got from other restaurants has literally saved us," Donley said. 

At Schlafly Tap Room, thousands of LouFest commemorative cans are now shelved. 

"They were exclusive to the festival," said Lo Dugan, Schlafly's marketing and events manager. "We were excited to get them out into people's hands and sell them."

The brewery is offering a free can of white lager to anyone who brings their ticket or wristband to the Tap Room or Bottleworks. 

Even though many of the vendors have tried to make the best of it, the abrupt cancellation has left many of them justifiably angry. 

"We need to be at the table we need to be respected enough to be communicated to and they didn't do that," Donley said. 

News 4 reached out to LouFest organizer Mike Van Hee about vendor reimbursement, but got no response. His voicemail box is full. 


Economic impact


 

LouFest brings in millions of dollars to St. Louis each year and the fallout from its cancellation has ripple effects beyond just ticket sales.

The St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce did an economic impact study on LouFest 2017, and found the festival brought in $8 million to the area as attendees patronized local restaurants, bars, hotels and shops in addition to the money spent at the festival. 

The chamber also partnered with LouFest's organizers for an event Friday night called "LouFest U." 

Set to be a college fair wrapped up in a music festival, the event was supposed to feature companies like Express Scripts, Nestle, and Edward Jones, who would recruit college students and encourage them to settle in St. Louis. 

This was the second year the chamber partnered with LouFest and they said no red flags went up when dealing with them previously.

"We do our due diligence on our end to see if they're a good partner," said Valerie Patton with the chamber. "Actually they came to us wanting to partner with the chamber for this event. They wanted to do something new and unique and we were looking for something that would be fun and cool for college students."

The City of St. Louis is also out money, as the festival owed $12,000 in fees that were never paid.

Copyright 2018 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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