Although La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group voted at its July 25 meeting to support a yet-unnamed jazz festival for Dec. 2-4 in Scripps Park, it was a tough decision marked by hesitation as new details emerged about the event’s organizer, David Payne.
During a second LJP&B presentation to garner approval for the small-scale event featuring high-end smooth jazz artists, Payne of RTE Productions said he has 22 years of experience putting concerts together. Most of that time was with BTW Concerts and other event promotion companies, before branching out to establish RTE Productions a little over a year ago.
But not everything in that history is positive.
LJP&B member Bob Evans told him, “I did a little research … and I discovered a lot of negativity, bad feedback and complaints from the companies with which you worked. Your name was associated with these complaints.” Further, Evans’ research turned up incidences of BTW Concerts canceling events and leaving ticket-buyers without a show and without their money back.
Payne responded by saying poor business practices is part of the reason he and partner Rob Rogers left the promotion company. Blaming “the head of BTW Concerts” Payne said, “There are a lot of things that are going to follow him, and that’s why we aren’t with BTW anymore.”
With BTW Concerts, Payne said he produced San Diego Jazz Festival at Omni La Costa Resort. Resting on those laurels, he said he has a reputation of leaving venues in the same condition as how they were found.
Although the San Diego Jazz Festival took place for three years at the La Costa Resort, Erika DiProfio, director of marketing for Omni Hotels, said it would not host the event this year. “We can confirm that the San Diego Jazz Festival was held here in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and that we decided to not host it for a fourth year.” She later added, “Just like any other group we do business with, both parties evaluate if the outcome of the event achieved the goals originally set forth. After consideration, it was decided to not host the event again.”
As a company, RTE has a resume consisting only of upcoming events: San Diego Bayfest at PETCO Park (set for September) and La Jolla’s winter jazz festival.
Having already received tentative approval from the City of San Diego and recent approval from the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, Payne told the board, “They seemed to see the value of the (La Jolla) jazz festival for the community and for local merchants.”
As to what prompted the Merchants Association to approve the event, executive director Sheila Fortune (in attendance at the meeting) said, “They asked. They gave a great presentation … it’s a great opportunity to bring something high-class to the Village and it’s something people have been asking for, for a long time.” However, she said she was not aware of the negativity surrounding BTW.
LJP&B member Ann Dynes voiced the opinion, “We’re taking a little bit of a gamble … but these kinds of events can be really productive for a community like ours and I think we should give it a try.”
Before calling for a vote, LJP&B chair Dan Allen said the action would serve as a recommendation that the city allow RTE to use the park, and would not be an endorsement of the event. As such, LJP&B voted 9-6-1 to approve use of Scripps Park for the jazz festival. RTE Productions now goes to the City of San Diego for more necessary permits, before presenting again to La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation advisory group at a future meeting.