The Midwest Reggae Fest marked its 20th anniversary last August at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, that bastion of nature and camping and smokable herbal remedies in rural Garrettsville. But it appears the fest’s next 20 years will start with a change of venue.
“It was their suggestion that we look around for someplace else,” says the fest’s founder and promoter, Packy Malley. At issue, evidently, was not the event’s Woodstock-revivalist bent, but park management’s own concern over whether the place would even be open to accommodate Malley’s three-day bash.
Rather than waiting around to see if Nelson Ledges gets its act together, Malley has sought to close a deal with an intriguing new locale: Wendy Park on Whiskey Island, adjacent to downtown Cleveland. While the site wouldn’t allow for camping, it also wouldn’t require a GPS and all-terrain vehicle to find.
But with a new venue comes a new problem — one shared by Cleveland’s other show promoters: the city’s daunting admissions tax, an 8 percent tariff on the price of each ticket sold.
The tax has sent a shiver down the spine of established clubs like the Beachland and Peabody’s, which have been thrown to the verge of financial crisis now that the city has come calling for unpaid taxes in recent times. The tax, they argue, is far steeper than those paid in other cities across the U.S. For a one-off event like Reggae Fest, with profit margins that start small and tend to get smaller, it could leave a promoter like Malley thousands of dollars in the red.
“This will bring a lot of people into the city, when I could just as well be doing it someplace else,” he says. “I’m hopeful we can work something out.”
Malley says he’s talking with the city, though the city is not talking with Scene.