West Sacramento TBD Fest behind on paying its bills

Music lovers attend the TBD Festival on Oct. 4, 2014, on the West Sacramento river front.
Music lovers attend the TBD Festival on Oct. 4, 2014, on the West Sacramento river front. Sacramento Bee file

As TBD Fest prepares to expand its Sacramento-based concert festival into Texas, a number of local contractors are still owed money from the festival’s debut in October.

Betsy Hite, who operates Sacramento’s Elegant and Easy Gourmet Catering, was contracted to provide food service at the West Sacramento festival, which was held near the Tower Bridge from Oct. 3 to Oct. 5. Hite and her crew were responsible for feeding the stagehands, bands, VIPs and others several meals a day during the festival’s run.

Hite’s company was contracted for $22,000 by Abraxis Spera, the production manager for TBD Fest, and paid a cash deposit of $10,000 prior to the festival. The remaining amount was to be paid at the festival’s end. Months later, Hite said she’s still owed a balance of $18,000 to account for meal overruns. Spera disputes that number, but acknowledges that money is owed.

Hite said the nonpayment has hurt the bottom line of her small business.

“I’m not a nonprofit,” Hite said. “I’m not a charity. I’m already in the hole, (even) with the $10,000 they gave me.”

TBD Fest’s founders include Clay Nutting and Michael Hargis, co-owners of LowBrau and Block Butcher Bar restaurants. The festival drew a combined attendance of more than 21,000, with a musical lineup that included Blondie and such top electronic music acts as Moby, Justice and Empire of the Sun.

TBD Fest also included a culinary stage featuring food battles between local chefs and a food pavilion with local restaurants including Blackbird Kitchen + Beer Gallery, Mother and LowBrau.

According to Nutting, TBD Fest lost an undisclosed amount of money in October. Spera acknowledged that more than one contractor is still owed for services, but declined to identify the businesses or the outstanding amounts.

“As money comes in, we have every intention of paying Betsy and her company,” Spera said about Hite.

Despite the festival’s economic woes, TBD’s organizers have moved forward with organizing other events and festivals. The TBD team threw a New Year’s Eve party in midtown, with the popular DJ A-Trak as its headliner, which drew 1,500 people. According to Nutting, the party broke even financially.

TBD Fest also is moving forward with a free four-day festival in Austin, Texas, to coincide with the popular South by Southwest festival, held in March. Nutting and Hargis also have plans to operate a restaurant and beer garden at The Barn, a half-acre indoor/outdoor venue scheduled to be built near the Tower Bridge.

“We have to do events to try and make revenue to make our obligations,” Nutting said. “We’re not happy that we weren’t able to take care of everything, but we’ve been in communication with everyone.”

Hite meanwhile has contacted West Sacramento officials, including the office of Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and Bob Johnston, the city’s director of parks and recreation. West Sacramento officials and TBD organizers are aiming for a mid-March meeting to discuss the 2015 edition of the festival.

“We’re aware of it,” said Johnston, about money owed to Hite and other contractors. “From our perspective, apart from a few hiccups, it was a great event that got a lot of exposure. Even though there were some first-year issues, that’ll change hopefully and they can resolve them. But we’ll have to see.”

Hite has retained a lawyer, who sent a letter of demand to Nutting and Spera, TBD Fest’s production manager, for payment of $18,101.20. If Hite doesn’t receive the payment by Friday, she expects to file a lawsuit early next week.

“I think it had the potential to be a wonderful event from a music and foodie perspective,” Hite said of TBD. “And they had great vision. I’m sad it came to this.”

Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.

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