Now that I have finally had a chance to read through the July 9th amendment to Philadelphia Bill Number 100267, I can help explain it from a promoter's point of view. You can track the progress of the bill and view its full text from the official legislative file.
This amendment is a big improvement on the initial draft: it is a lot less vague and quite a bit more rational. Keep in mind though that, in the game of politics, this may be a very deliberate play. Regulations pertaining to the roles of the venue operator and of the promoter are much more clearly defined. Perhaps the most notable change though is that the bill now explicitly targets music event (live performances, DJ nights, etc.) where attendance exceeds 50 people almost exclusively. This is a big change for the broad definition presented in the first iteration which targeted just about any event, but it was clear from the rest of the content as well as the subtext what the true aim was to be. Venues hosting applicable events must apply for a Special Occupancy license from "the Department", which likely refers to the Department of Licenses and Inspection which is mentioned much later in the document (not sure why the author couldn't just write it out). These cost $100 and last for 2 years. The terms of the license and the application process are spelled out a lot more clearly. The process seems to be similar to that of liquor licensure though not as intense as that mess. Some basic information is provided by the owner, a notice must be displayed on the building, and input is provided by the neighborhood as well as the police department. What they manage to sneak in to the otherwise reasonable process is that after the specifics, "police department views" are taken into account. This is essentially the same arbitrary decision making authority outlined in the first draft.
The venue is responsible for registering events with the neighborhood police commander within 2 weeks of the event or must be able to demonstrate a good cause for the late notice. A major improvement over the first draft is that there is no mention of the police department having the authority to deny these registrations. They only have the power to enforce operational regulations on the venue along with the Department of Licenses and Inspection. Both entities must be permitted to inspect the premises at any time. Opinions on this may vary depending upon how one feels about the whole warrant process.
Oh and venues may not have fireworks, prostitution, drugs, or alcohol being served to minors. Apparently someone thought it was worth wasting words in this text on matters that are already unquestionably illegal.
Promoters must be registered with the Managing Director (of the Department of Licensures and Inspection?) using a form that will be made available somewhere online. Registration requires a Business Privilege license from the city and carries a one-time fee of $40. The responsibilities of the promoter are left largely open-ended so that they can be worked out with the venue. Whatever responsibilities are agreed upon between the two parties must be clearly delineated using a provided form and posted publicly on the Web.
Of course the most fun comes at the end where the bill sneaks in the authority for the Department of Licenses and Inspection to change these regulations at any time and however it sees fit. In the end, it doesn't matter so much what this bill says then because those in power can simply impose whatever terms they want outside of the transparent (comparatively) legislative process. Isn't politics fun?!
Be sure to let the city council members (Greenlee and Clarke in particular) know how you feel about the bill! You can find their contact information here: http://www.phila.gov/cityCouncil/CouncilMembers.html
Councilmembers Greene and Clarke have quietly submitted a bill targeting event promoters within the city of Philadelphia at the end of April and are working on trying to push it throw into law. This has received very little, if any, coverage by the main media outlets, but its impact could be severe. Particularly on smaller or independent promoters. you can give it a read here.
On the surface the legislation may seem benign, but you have to read between the lines in order to deduce its intentions. What's more important is what is not there.
Here is a basic overview of what is proposed:
- Promoters must register their events with the neighborhood police at least 30 days in advance which includes the submission of a detailed security plan.
- Events are approved by default unless the police unit decides to revoke it before 10 days prior to the date of the event.
- This applies to promoters of all events categorized under special assembly. Concerts, sports, festivals, and so on are included. Non-profits and political campaign events are excluded.
- Promoters are also made responsible for behavior outside of the confines of the event in the neighborhood.
The document is glaringly one-sided and leaves the door wide open for abuse. Denial of an event is entirely arbitrary. No guidelines are provided whatsoever for the police to follow. No appeal process is provided. This allows for events to be blocked on personal or political whims. Just because the police are the mouthpiece doesn't mean that the politicians can't influence their decisions. Ultimately this gives the city government control over precisely where, when, and what events it chooses to allow.
While this applies to an array of event types, concerts are clearly the primary target. Technically this applies to big sporting events like Eagles games as they are legally no different and athletic events are even explicitly mentioned. However, can you really see this being enforced with such big players? Even with the large venues like the Electric Factory, I can't see this being applied and enforced fairly. The intent seems to be to establish a means of cracking down on smaller events that generate nuisances. To be fair, there certainly are some that do and there are absolutely some lousy promoters. The problem is that there are some in law enforcement and politics who do not understand or participate in the music culture and blindly label them all as such.
As for the placing responsibility on the promoter for the behavior of others outside of the property of the venue, the proposal goes well beyond reason. It is not at all in the interest of the promoter or venue to have people making trouble in the neighborhood. Those who intend to keep things going in the long term certainly try to limit problems by encouraging people to disperse. However, once they step off the property the promoter has no legal means of influencing behavior. Legally, you can't touch people outside of the event. Inside you can, which allows for people to be physically removed as a trespasser. Outside, people are in the public domain which falls under the monitoring of law enforcement personnel who do have the means and responsibility of dealing with public nuisances.
I see this legislation quickly being abused at the expense of the people's lawful right to assemble. Without fair and reasonable safeguards, those in power will use it to quash events that they do not want occurring in particular locations simply because they do not want the particular type of event or associated audience around.
Consequences for violation of these laws are also arbitrary. While most of the document is fairly clear, this section is conveniently clouded in legalese. This seems intentional designed to obscure the intent to determine consequences at a whim, open to all sorts of bias.
The explicit exclusion granted for politicians in their event promotion efforts stands out. This is the only item that is blatantly sleazy. It shows that they are perfectly willing to force the law on others, but not willing to abide by it themselves. Perhaps because they realize that it could just as arbitrarily be applied to them. While it is not unusual for politicians to make convenient exceptions for themselves, that does not make it any less unethical.
The big question, however, is whether such legislation is even necessary in the first place. Is there really a significant enough problem with lousy promoters to justify the creation of new law? Poorly run events do happen, but it's pretty rare that events create major problems. Additionally, there is already a market force that weeds out these bad promoters. Word spreads. Venues and performers decline to do business with them and people decline to attend.
Please, let the council know that you do not approve of this legislation.
After getting shut down in late-November due to some vague, likely alcohol-related issues with the city, The Fire has managed to bounce back from the brink. Thanks to the support of the community at various benefit shows and other contributions, the venue will be back in action this Thursday, January 14th.
For those unaware, the significance of The Fire is that it has been one of the few of the city's small venues that is both able to host all ages shows and has a bar. Hopefully that won't change, but they may be playing it safe for a while.
According to their release, consumers will benefit from greater choice in terms of ticketing options. Creating a larger perceived monopoly intuitively doesn't translate into savings to the consumer and indeed they are very careful to dance around the issue in the public releases. After all, the merger is still pending approval.
Competing venues certainly can't be too happy with this move. Using Ticketmaster's services will mean putting money directly into the hands of the competition. Could this mean that they will begin using alternative services?