ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Flambeau Fest and its possibly questionable future are the center of controversy once again as the concert hits a sour note with ticketholders.
“It’s a loss. It’s done. I don’t think anyone’s going to get their money and I don’t think the concert’s ever going to happen,” said Anjelle Tiliakos.
Frustrated fans are not the only ones on the hunt for their money. Now, those who supported the event are coming forward with claims that those behind the festival have fallen behind on their bills. A hotel manager, who chose not the be identified because of his close ties to Ascension Parish, has now come forward, telling WAFB that concert promoter, Mark Miller, and PI Entertainment selected his business as the host hotel for the first-time festival. Two years later, he says he is still waiting on what they owe.
"It was a good relationship all the way through until it was time to start collecting payments,” the manager said. “If you know nothing that went on behind the scenes, then there are a lot of people out there that are excited for it to come back. Hopefully, they feel differently when the truth comes out.”
The weekend concert cost $4 million, but now, the show seems to be struggling to get off the ground for a second time. First, the group missed a 2018 deadline and then failed to make good on a promise to bring fans a festival in March. A post on Facebook by the team in late 2018 told fans future events would be planned in March going forward. A contract reveals Ascension Parish, through the Lamar Dixon Expo Center, paid PI Entertainment $250,000 for the 2017 show. The parish was supposed to get that money back after cashing in on a percentage of what the concert collected in parking, plus other fees.
The inaugural event was projected to sell $18,000 tickets, but leadership at the venue admits they don’t know where the money they were supposed to get ended up. Kyle Rogers, general manager at Lamar Dixon, says the parish rolled the agreement over to another year, allowing promoters to keep their payment and whatever other fees were owed. According to Rogers, the agreement was made with the understanding that the parish would get paid after the next concert.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked leaders at Lamar Dixon what happened with the money that was collected from the first event.
"I have no idea,” Rogers replied. “An event of that size costs roughly $4 million, so whatever they brought in had to go toward that $4 million.”
The contract between the host hotel and PI Entertainment shows Miller and his team booked more than 250 rooms around the 2017 event and the group staying there for the better part of a month. According to the contract, the first room was rented Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 and the last check-out was Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. The hotel manager claims during that time, the group ran up a bill of more than $31,000. The hotel sent a notice to the Flambeau team, dated Feb., 26, 2018 stating the bill was more than 120 days past due which, with interest, brought the final total owed up to $32,592.03.
“I’d be very disappointed if the parish welcomed the event back,” the hotel manager added.
The hotel manager claims when staff tried to just collect the $3,500 deposit after the final PI Entertainment crew member checked out of the hotel, the card on file was declined.
"We tried the card several times,” he added. “We wrote several emails and made several phone calls back and forth. It went on for several weeks and we kept getting the runaround."
He alleges Miller and PI Entertainment dodged every future attempt his staff made to try to collect the money owed. In a last-ditch effort to get their money back, he told WAFB a group of them drove to the business, but never found a company matching the Covington address listed on their agreement.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the manager if his company has ever had to deal with something like this where they were forced to go to a company to demand a payment.
“Never,” the manager replied. “I’ve been in the industry for 12 years and I’ve never seen any company act like that.”
The 9News Investigators have also uncovered court records that reveal PI Entertainment was slapped with a lawsuit in 2018. L.B. Interests, llc, one of the lenders who made Flambeau Fest possible, alleges the promoter never paid back money he borrowed for the event. The lawsuit was filed in the 19th Judicial District Court on May 10, 2018. Keep in mind, this was while they were promising fans that another make-up concert was right around the corner. The group is now suing the concert, Miller, and his team for more than $1.7 million, plus attorney’s fees and court costs.
After trying to call Miller, WAFB’s Scottie Hunter followed up and sent an email asking about the status of PI Entertainment and the future of Flambeau Fest. He wrote back, but did not answer any of the questions, specifically, writing, “We’re in constant contact with our partner venue & team at Lamar Dixon and are collectively working toward and planning Flambeau Fest 2. The team’s sole focus is to continue to deliver the very high-quality artist and fan experience of the inaugural Flambeau Fest on Ascension Fields at LDEC.”
The Flambeau team also posted on Facebook, once again promising a future concert was in the works.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked leaders at Lamar Dixon if they were aware of the lawsuit against PI Entertainment.
“No,” Rogers replied. Leaders at Lamar Dixon claim they have regular talks with the Flambeau team, but say they were not aware of any lawsuit until WAFB brought it to their attention. Rogers though, maintains his faith in the event and its future.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Rogers if, based on the lawsuit, he was concerned about the future of the concert or PI Entertainment’s ability to host it.
“No, I don’t think so. The entertainment industry people sue each other all the time,” he replied. “That doesn’t concern us.” When pressed about the team’s ability to pay for a future concert, Rogers told WAFB he has seen other promoters pull it off before.
"It happens,” Rogers added. “They bring up another festival and they'll get more lenders and they'll pay off whoever they need to reimburse and it happens."
The hotel manager, who claims he is owed money, says he’s deeply concerned about anything promoters with PI Entertainment try to get involved with going forward.
“If they’re trying to put on more events or they’re trying to pay their debt by getting sponsors, then certainly that would look like kind of a Ponzi scheme," he said. The manager believes it’s very concerning for organizers to continue to promote a future concert when, according to the active lawsuit and several people that he knows, who say PI Entertainment has not made good on some financial commitments from the first event.
“I know companies that put up $10,000 to $15,000 each as sponsors,” he said. “Where did it go? I know they had expenses, but where did the rest of the money go?” With no concert, no refunds, and now, an active lawsuit, the cries are growing louder that PI Entertainment and their dealings related to Flambeau Fest be investigated.
“I don’t think that this entertainment company was prepared at all to do this,” said Tiliakos.
"They need to take ownership of what they've done and they need to be held accountable for it," the hotel manager added.
Miller did respond through email late on Wednesday, Apr. 3, acknowledging the lawsuit, but tells WAFB he cannot comment specifically on the case, saying both parties involved have come to an agreement on the matter. That full response reads: “Regarding your request for comment on your pending story about the lawsuit (from your text), we obviously cannot comment on details, but will say that both sides have now identified a path to the solution that will benefit the festival’s future. Again, mirroring LDEC’s statement, we are focused on the return of Flambeau Fest to LDEC. We delivered a very high quality, large scale music festival event to the region, and aim to continue to do so. We appreciate the time issues and will update fans and upgrade ticket holders directly as we move forward.”