Sunset Strip Business Association Ponders Sale of the Financially Troubled Music Festival

sunset strip music festival 2013
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at SSMF 2013. (Photo by Jon Viscott)

The financially troubled Sunset Strip Music Festival (SSMF) apparently is trying to sell the annual event to an outside company that would assume its $1.3 million in debt.

Such a sale would enable the SSMF to avoid filing for bankruptcy and remove the associated financial risk from the Sunset Strip Business Association, which owns the SSMF.

The effort to sell the event is mentioned in a report to the West Hollywood City Council, which on Monday will conduct a public hearing on proposals for continuing the Sunset Strip business improvement district. The business improvement district, which levies fees on businesses in the area to cover the cost of security, cleaning and marketing and promotion services, operates under the Sunset Strip Business Association (SSBA) name.

The report outlines discussions city staff members have had with members of the SSBA who have complained about its management and the negative impact of the music festival on their businesses. In a letter to City Manager Paul Arevalo, a group of SSBA members whose businesses account for 38 percent of the revenue generated by the mandatory membership fees said the music festival hurts their businesses. The members signing the letter include such major businesses as the Andaz, Grafton, Mondrian and Sunset Marquis hotels; bars and nightclubs such as Bootsy Bellows, the Den, the Pearl, Rock and Reilly’s and the Viper Room; restaurants such as Pink Taco and Rivabella, and Innovation Dining Group, which owns restaurants such as Katana and BOA Steakhouse.

“SSMF not only does not benefit many of us, it actually hurts most of us financially,” the letter from Innovation’s Lee Maen said. “Over that weekend, the people it draws to the event do not come to the neighboring businesses, and the traffic and street closures keep the locals away.”

The music festival began in 2008 as a celebration of Sunset Boulevard’s role in rock music history. Its financial problems led the West Hollywood City Council to consider putting last year’s festival on hiatus. Instead the Council agreed to an SSBA proposal to move it from August to September, when hotel room occupancy traditionally is lower and the event had a better chance of helping boost business.

Recent discussions with SSBA members have led the city’s Arts and Economic Development division to recommend that the 2015 festival be conducted solely inside participating nightclubs, bars and restaurants. That means Sunset Boulevard would not be closed to traffic for the event. The division also is recommending an independent audit of the SSBA’s finances and has contracted with a firm to study the financial impact of the music festival and other events. Some members of the SSBA have expressed concerns about how it uses the funds its members are required to pay. They also have objected that its advisory board includes members whose businesses do not pay such dues.

According to the division’s notes of its meeting, the SSBA’s advisory board also is recommending that the annual Sunset Strip Market not be continued this year. That event, which launched in 2012 with a focus on locally grown food has shifted its focus to craft beer and entertainment acts such as “drag bingo.” “The event is considered competition with existing food and alcohol establishments and does not drive traffic into businesses on The Sunset Strip,” said the Arts and Economic Development division’s memo.

If SSBA members who account for 50 percent or more of its annual assessments decline to participate, the City Council will be required to end the business improvement district. The Council will hold a hearing on the matter at its meeting at 6;30 p.m. on Monday at the Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica.

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jules
jules
5 years ago

The farmers market was a wonderful addition to the neighborhood and it is missed! If you would rather not hang out with a bunch of bridge and tunnel rockers sitting outside a bar smoking cigarettes (as typically found on the strip), but would rather convene with your neighbors and friends at a weekly outdoor gathering with great artisanal food and affordable drinks, then the market was the best part of the summer. Bring back the market. Lose the SSMF.

JC Diaz
5 years ago

I wouldnt mind taking over the Festival. I would incorporate all the venues, address all the issues including street closures. I think the festival was great, but the impact it had in the community was minimal. I would use a different strategy that would keep residents happy, businesses profitable and patrons excited.

Logan
Logan
5 years ago

I personally liked the events. I thought the Farmers Market was a welcome to the neighborhood one night a week. It gave me, a local, different eating options and brought my neighbors and I together.

The music festival was fun…but only because I got free tickets. And believe me, I earned those free tickets due to what happened to my street the day of the festival each year. I think brining focus to the strip is a great idea…but let’s get people who actually know how to run it.

WeHo Thom
WeHo Thom
5 years ago

Good bye and good riddance. Yet another annoying WeHo event featuring half-assed traffic control and street closures, resulting in mad, angry drivers tearing through our neighborhood in search of a detour around closed Sunset Boulevard. SSMF never cared about the neighbors impacted by their event, so I could care less about their impending demise.

Alison
Alison
5 years ago

Didn’t it lose money last year? Who would buy a losing proposition? Just discontinue the festival and if that means bankrupting the organization, so be it. I always thought it was kind of a dumb idea anyways.

Bernadette Parinello
Bernadette Parinello
5 years ago

who the hell would want it??? has it EVER made any money??? do people REALLY think of WeHo when they think about music? um, NO

Don Azars
5 years ago

If it has a PURPOSE, and is correctly run, then yea someone needs to take it over. But if it’s just another MONEY GREED event and doesn’t work, DUMP IT..it’s that simple. West Hollywood has enough going on as it is. Bars, Clubs, Restaurants need to find another way to attract business.

Todd Bianco
5 years ago

Good luck selling it even for the outstanding debt. The only possible interested party might be Gibson Guitar which leased the Tower Records space on the strip. But given the lack of support by many of the Strip’s business owners, I think they should just bankrupt the organization and be done with it.