by Daniel Hill
In March 2014, a Los Angeles talent agency known as ICM Partners came to St Louis with a not-so-modest proposal. Board Bill 328 was introduced in the city's Convention & Tourism committee by Ald. Phyllis young, seeking to allow the company to host major "Lollapalooza-like" festivals on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends in downtown St Louis' Gateway Mall. The Memorial Day event would be a country music concert, while the Labor Day event would focus on rock & roll.
The bill was approved by the Board of Aldermen with a 21-4 vote, despite pushback and skepticism from some in the local music community. ICM was granted exclusive access to the city's Gateway Mall for the holiday weekends for the next ten years, with an option to extend the deal to twenty if all parties agreed.
Now, 2015's Memorial Day event has been cancelled, and the future of further concerts is uncertain.
"There is not going to be a concert over Memorial Day weekend," Mayor Slay's chief of staff Jeff Rainford told the Post-Dispatch on Friday. "We're waiting to hear their intentions beyond that. It's a major undertaking to put together something like this."
The Summer Rocks proposal came with its fair share of controversy. A petition in opposition to the festivals gathered over 1000 signatures, and Taste of St. Louis / Bluesweek owner Mike Kociela blamed the bill for his events' relocation last year to Chesterfield.
"We shouldn't write a law that gives someone a special advantage over local businesses that are playing by the rules. This ordinance is jeopardizing existing, grassroots, local festivals that support the city's cultural history," he said at the time. "How is any business supposed to compete when people of influence can dictate legislation that eliminates competition for their own profits? This sets a bad precedent that will discourage businesses like my own from operating in the city."
Opponents were especially wary of the bill's controversial no-compete clause, which bars similar events from operating in downtown St. Louis between Memorial Day and Labor Day -- essentially the entire summer. ICM's agreement states that the company must inform the city six months in advance if an event is canceled, which would nullify the no-compete and allow other events to take place. Any large-scale undertaking would take time to organize, however, and the relatively short notice might render the notion impossible. (In fact, according to Rainford, the difficulties of planning such a large event are exactly what stalled the Summer Rocks concert.)
While this year's Memorial Day concert is dead in the water, it is unclear at this time whether the Labor Day event will go on as planned.
"They still might be able to pull that one off," said Rainford.
ICM Partners could not be immediately reached for comment on this story. Follow RFTMusic.com for updates.
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