by Max Brantley
A news release arrived today from ZooJam Promotions, which staged the financially disastrous ZooJam concert Oct. 2 at War Memorial Park. Toby Keith was the headliner.
The promoters say they have "compensated and met all contractual obligations to the local food and beverage vendors" and added, "Payment arrangements are being made with any contractors who may have remaining balances."
This seemed to leave a number of open questions — including about the $10,000 rent payment owed the city, thousands in pay owed off-duty cops who provided security, payments to the stage rigger who had said he hadn't been compensated for workers needed to take down the stage and more.
I got Eyren James of ZooJam Promotions on the phone. She provided little help. To each specific question, she repeated a statement that contractors had been paid or arrangements were being made. Did that mean contractors would be paid in full? Did that mean they accepted other terms if reduced amounts were being offered? Did the city get its full rental? She replied in every case, before finally hanging up on me, that payments had been made or arrangements were being made.
The Zoo netted zilch on the concert except a 25 percent cut, required by law, of gross alcohol sales. That was worth $4,000. ZooJams said the concert was an artistic success and poor attendance was "a shocking disappointment, completely unexpected and inexplicable by entertainment industry insiders."
Sounds like the city hasn't been paid: Said assistant city manager Bryan Day to my query:
The City has not paid any costs associated with the concert and are encouraging the promoters to meet their obligations. This includes the off-duty officers and the golf course rent.
Mt. Pleasant, SC —- October 10, 2011 —- ZooJamTM Promotions, LLC announced today that it has compensated and met all contractual obligations to the local food and beverage vendors involved in the 1st Annual Little Rock ZooJam. The Arkansas Zoological Foundation has received in full their 25% of gross alcohol sales payment. Payment arrangements are being made with any contractors who may have remaining balances.
Beginning October 2, 2011, ZooJamTM Promotions has been working non-stop to ensure these obligations were fulfilled. At no time was there any intention to avoid contact or default on our debts. Communications were disabled by the onslaught of calls, texts, and e-mails from media, vendors and contractors. Further, we did not wish to make statements until we had all of our figures in place, which would allow us to have an accurate financial assessment when speaking with contractors.
Numerous segments of media reports, public speculation and comments from a few angry vendors were incomplete and left the community with the impression that we left town with no intention of making right the obligations to those involved.
Following the successful outcome we produced for Boo at the Zoo 2010, Zoo spokesperson Susan Altrui reported that "we more than doubled our revenue from 2009..." raising an unprecedented $400,000.00. It was at that time that we began discussions with Zoo officials about producing a concert. Contrary to what was reported in last week's media conference, we did not just approach the zoo a couple of months ago with this idea. This was an almost year-long dialogue between ZooJamTM Promotions, Zoo officials, the AZF, and the City of Little Rock.
We are deeply grateful to the City of Little Rock and its related departments for their efforts to aid us during the event and we offer our most profound apologies for the after-effects of this unfortunate situation. In addition, our deepest respect and gratitude go out to the talent: Toby Keith, Eric Church, Sara Evans, and Diamond Rio who, in spite of the low attendance, maintained their professionalism by putting on the same top-notch, dazzling performances for which they are so highly regarded.
The level of professionalism of all involved helped to make the concert a very enjoyable experience for those who purchased tickets and attended the show. Many who have expressed their opinion to us remarked that it was one of the best concerts from a talent and production point of view they had ever attended. The poor attendance was a shocking disappointment, completely unexpected and inexplicable by entertainment industry insiders.