KINGSPORT — For several years now, it’s drawn folks to the downtown district for free entertainment and fun. But this year, the summer concert series — specifically the stage used by entertainers — has become the battleground in the fight between two competing downtown organizations.
Members of the Downtown Kingsport Association are livid that the producers of the Twilight Alive Series — Broad Street Productions — has opted to contract for a stage out of Asheville for this year’s Thursday night concerts on Broad Street.
In previous years, Broad Street Productions had used the DKA Foundation stage, which was donated by Eastman Chemical Co. in 2005 for community purposes.
Broad Street Productions is headed by Doug Beatty, Kanishka Biddanda and Jeff Lane — three of the principal players in the new Downtown Business Alliance of Kingsport, an informal group formed last fall to represent merchants and property owners in the central business district.
Beatty said he chose not to contract with the DKA this year because the nonprofit organization wanted $11,500 for the use of the stage this summer.
In years past, DKA charged $1,500 to cover maintenance of the stage.
DKA board member Mark Freeman said his group upped the price this year to cover extensive maintenance of the stage. He said the $1,500 charged in prior years only covered minimal upkeep.
“They’ve used it in excess of 75 times. The floor is worn out and needs to be replaced. There’s also some issues with how the hydraulics operate — we need a generator on it to operate in a more stable manner. At some point, you have to understand, there’s got to be some major maintenance done,” Freeman said.
“When you add up everything we wanted to do, it was about the equivalent of $10,000,” he said.
He said the DKA’s request for $11,500 included the $10,000 in major maintenance plus the usual $1,500 in standard upkeep.
DKA President Larry Crawford said the total charge was approved by the DKA Foundation Board, and included use of the stage on Fridays for the Bluegrass on Broad concerts as well as the Thursday night Twilight Alive concerts.
DKA Executive Director Lisa Childress said she’s concerned that Broad Street Productions is now contracting for a stage outside of the area.
“That money is going out of state. In these economic times, that money should be coming to a nonprofit in Kingsport and not be taken out of Kingsport. Be loyal, buy local — we preach that everyday,” Childress said.
Regardless, Beatty said he was looking for a larger stage anyway to accommodate big-name entertainers who expect bigger and better venues.
As a result, Beatty, who had made contacts in the industry when he produced the Brewgrass Festival in Asheville, contracted with an acquaintance there for the stage for Thursday night concerts.
The new stage, which was erected for the first time here Thursday night, measures 24 feet by 24 feet, with two 8-foot-by-8-foot wings and a 20-foot ceiling.
The DKA stage measures 16 feet by 24 feet.
Beatty and Kanishka Biddanda, two of the organizers of the Downtown Business Alliance, said they suspect that DKA increased its price for the stage this year because the group lost the contract to sell beer at the Thursday night concerts.
DKA has sold beer at the events for the past few years. Freeman noted that DKA was the first group in the city to sell beer at any event downtown. And he said DKA has sold beer for five years now.
“One of the reasons we elected to do the beer sales (for the Thursday night concerts) was for that purpose — you had to have someone who could do it responsibly,” Freeman said.
He said DKA has never had a problem in selling beer — no arrests, no public drunkenness.
But Beatty and Kanishka said there were problems.
“Long lines, slow lines, running out of beer. Then it became which shows would actually have beer,” Beatty said.
He said DKA opted not to sell beer at three of the 11 concerts held last year.
“Without anybody’s approval, they just decided not to do it,” he said.
The headliner for one of those concerts was Mike Farris, who was promoting his record, “Gospel Music for Beer Drinkers.”
“They (DKA) decided that because it said gospel music, that it would be a Christian show, and we wouldn’t have beer at it,” Beatty said. “Oh, the artist was angry.”
Last week, DKA members said they thought the concert was religious based. They said they opted not to sell beer at two of last year’s concerts for that reason. The third concert was canceled due to inclement weather, they said.
“We told them from year one that in respect of our citizens, in respect of the church, we would not sell beer at a religious concert,” Freeman said.
Restoration Church is located on Broad Street near where the concerts are held.
This year another organization, KNETIC stepped forward indicating an interest in selling beer at the concerts. KNETIC is a group of young professionals, many of whom belong to the Downtown Business Alliance.
As a result, the chamber, which actually handles the concerts by contracting all arrangements, decided to bid out the beer sales, asking both DKA and KNETIC to submit proposals based on a set of requirements.
DKA submitted its proposal, saying it would conduct beer sales as it had always done.
The proposal didn’t meet all the requirements, and KNETIC got the contract.
At DKA, Crawford said he’s heard the allegations before that the association upped its price on the stage for this year’s concerts because it lost the beer contract.
“I was told that because of the stage situation, pretty much we had shot ourselves in the foot because we were vindictive in our request for financing for the use of the stage because we did not get the beer sales this year for the concert series,” Crawford said. “That totally was not true.”
DKA members criticized Broad Street Productions for their handling of the concerts, citing problems with portable toilets, for instance.
DKA member Chaiba Bloomer, holding a paper in her hand from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, questioned the status of Broad Street Productions.
According to the state Web Site, Broad Street Productions LLC of Kingsport has had its status revoked by the Department of Revenue. The Web site doesn’t indicate the reason.
Contacted by e-mail, Kanishka said he spoke with his business partner, Jeff Lane, who said he hadn’t received any notice about the status being revoked.
Lane said he telephoned the Tennessee Department of Revenue Friday morning, and was told there was a clerical filing error, and to expect a clearance letter within one to two weeks, along with the corrected status on the Web site.
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