Bravo Blythewood concerts lose $18K+

BLYTHEWOOD – Last December, town council awarded $17,360 in hospitality tax revenue to Bravo Blythewood to organize a four-night Spring concert series with the purpose of bringing visitors to the town. During Monday night’s town council meeting, Mayor J. Michael Ross presented Bravo Blythewood’s final report on the series. It revealed that the concerts not only failed to bring many visitors to town, but that Bravo Blythewood lost $18,140.53 on the four concerts.

And if that wasn’t enough to raise the mayor’s and council’s ire, there was more. No one showed up at the meeting to answer for the loss.

The four concerts were performed in the Palmetto Citizens’ Credit Union Amphitheater in Doko Park April 27, May 3, 10 and 17.

In the application requesting hospitality funds, event manager Sara Ballard projected revenues of $46,054: $17,360 from H-Tax funds; $11,000 from sponsorships; $1,500 from food vendors, $14,560 from beer/wine sales and $1,634 from juice and water sales.

Besides the town’s contribution, the event only brought in $8,618 ($3,568 from beer/wine sales, $2,000 from sponsorships, $2,000 from Martha Jones, president of Bravo Blythewood and $1,050 from vendor fees).

The projected revenue fell short $7,000 on sponsorships, $450 on food vendors; $10,992 on beer/wine sales and $1,634 on juice and water sales.

“I’ll just say I hope this wasn’t their major fundraiser,” Ross joked, then turned serious.

“Why is no one from Bravo Blythewood here tonight?” Ross asked. Buddy Price, a Bravo Blythewood board member, had been in the audience but left before the agenda item came up.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where their projections were way off,” Ross said. “And some expenses I would question. I’m not an event planner, but there are some things that, well, I can see where they lost some money,” he continued.

“I see Sara Ballard [the event planner] is not here,” Ross said, scanning the audience. “But I would have thought someone would be here. I don’t understand why they aren’t here to answer our questions. Gosh! We gave this money for them to bring people [to town]. So who do we ask?”

“This is not good,” Councilman Eddie Baughman interjected

According to Ballard’s report, she was paid $8,000 to organize the event. She was not paid (according to the final budget) a $1,000 bonus that was listed in the projected budget. Ballard was paid $1,000 for Facebook promotion – $900 to her company Broadstreet Consulting, LLC, for Facebook advertising and $100 for Facebook ad management. No breakdown or receipts were provided for any of the Facebook costs.

In addition to lower than expected attendance, expenses ran amok in several areas, including $9,200 for sound system and lighting equipment that had not been included in the projected $46,054 event budget, and $4,315 for hired staff that was projected to cost $640.

Ross ran through the list of losses, focusing on beer and wine sales and sponsorships.

“But the one that is mind boggling to me is the sound costs. Sound was not even budgeted, yet they spent $9,200 on it,” Ross said, raising his voice.

“You add these three losses up and that’s $26,000,” Ross said. “And they still haven’t paid the town the $3,000 they owe us for the venue (amphitheater).”

“We have an unbelievable facility out here and the sound has been great for other events,” Ross said.

“Their expenses were astronomical – $10,000 per night plus expenses,” Baughman commented. “It could have been done for half that cost.”

“When they applied for this money, what were we thinking,” Councilman Larry Griffin asked. The audience and council laughed.

“They were projecting a much larger audience,” Baughman said.

Ross laid partial blame for the lack of attendance squarely on Ballard’s advertising choices.

“They spent $1,100 on advertising in the Northeast News!” Ross grimaced. “I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m very disappointed that Sara Ballard is not here for us to at least be able to ask her some questions,” Ross said.

Ballard stated in her final report that Bravo Blythewood took the hit for the loss.

Bravo’s contribution to the event, Ballard stated in the final report, had been budgeted at $4,000; however, $20,140.65 was ultimately required to cover total expenses. Consequently, Bravo anted up $16,140.65 to cover that loss.

A note on Bravo’s ‘budget to actual’ report states that Jones donated $2,000 in personal funds to cover certain checks written.

Despite the five-digit financial losses, Ballard stated in her report to Council that Bravo Blythewood overwhelmingly believes the event contributed positively to the quality of life in the Blythewood community and has committed to hosting another series next year.

That same commitment was not forthcoming from Council.

“It would be hard for me to approve this kind of money for them again,” Baughman said.

Jones could not be reached for comment.