The Promoter Bill: How It All Began

By Jenny DeHuff
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 15 | Posted May. 25, 2010

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Club Shampoo

Photo by Jeff Fusco

A few bad apples, an aggravated police force and two overzealous city councilmen are to blame for the recently introduced “promoter bill,” which threatens to choke party planners in bureaucratic red tape and cripple Philly’s nightlife. Councilman Bill Greenlee, the bill’s author, says he introduced the now 3-week-old proposal in response to a few wild parties and the cries of an overstretched Police Department.

The councilman cites the Jan. 29 birthday party for 76ers’ guard Andre Iguodala at Table 31 in the Comcast Center as one of many incidents that led to the creation of the legislation. The event was over-sold by 2,000 tickets and stretched police resources, spurring complaints from officers who felt ill-prepared and who called for change of protocol.

Greenlee also fingered Coo’s Sports Bar & Lounge at Broad and Parrish streets, where, in late February, a shooting broke out, injuring four.

These incidents sparked outrage from the police officers who, according to Greenlee, were the first to take issue with Philadelphia promoters.

“The promoters don’t seem to acknowledge there’s any problem,” says Greenlee, whose bill mimics party-promoter measures in San Francisco and Chicago.

As it currently reads, the bill, which resembles the school-age practice of punishing the lot because of the wrongdoings of a few, would require promoters to submit an application 30 days before an event, and the city reserves the right to repeal that license within 10 days of the event.

Now, the outrage is coming from party promoters and other nightlife insiders who say this widely hated piece of legislation is bad business for tourism and for the cultural landscape of the city.

“I am nervous about the arts and culture, music, everything bringing the city of Philadelphia alive over the last 10 years,” says Brian Nagle, founder and president of Philly2night, an online events forum that connects consumers with popular venues. “It’s not worth my time to submit an event permit and then find out five days before that it’s been denied. For Philly2night and a lot of promoters, we usually spend—for a smaller event—three to four weeks to do an event. We’re already planning the New Year. There could be as much as $100,000 on the line. If it gets denied … that’s a lot of money to lose and could bankrupt a business.”

Nagle, who works with most major bars and restaurants in the city on a regular basis, says he’s been studying the promoter bill since its introduction and thinks the term “promoter” is too vague. “It seems like everybody and anybody that’s not the city of Philadelphia—that’s not a political committee or a nonprofit—is considered a promoter.”

Nagle describes “promoter” as an umbrella term that includes a wide range of individuals, such as theater groups, artists, nonprofit organizations and fundraisers. “In the ’60s, rock ’n’ roll would’ve never made it in this city (with this bill),” says Nagle, who intends on taking his business out of Philadelphia if the bill passes.

But Greenlee argues that it’s the parties-gone-wild that pose the biggest threat to the city, not the bill. “I don’t think it’s good for tourists—if they were down on JFK Boulevard the night a riot broke out outside the Comcast Center. If it can happen at Table 31, it can happen anywhere, and … that’s not good for the city.”

The bill’s co-sponsor, Councilman Darrell Clarke, says the issue came up because “a number of events happened in establishments and some unruly situations.” He adds: “The establishment person was basically absolved of any responsibility.”

It’s all about accountability, according to Clarke. “The establishment person says, ‘I turned my place over to the promoter, so I’m not culpable.’ That’s how it then morphed into a bill dealing with promoters … we realized there were really no regulations established for promoters.”

As PW reported last week, the backlash against the bill has been severe, and now Clarke, whose 5th District includes Silk City, the Walnut Room, Johnny Brenda’s and many other party spots, says that Council is working on narrowing the scope of the bill to only target the most troublesome party-throwers.

But in a city where professional party planners aren’t the only ones promoting events, the definition of “troublesome” could get murky. One example of an unlikely “promoter” is the city’s own Fraternal Order of Police. The FOP regularly rents out its union hall for weddings and events, many of which can get out of hand.

“Conceivably, they could be a promoter,” Clarke says of the FOP.

“It’s their establishment, and if there is illegal activity or some code violation, then they would have to be responsible. I don’t think they’re any different from anyone else.”

The bill also threatens to affect PW’s summer jam series, Concerts in the Park.

If Council passes the bill before its summer break, the bill would go into effect in the fall.

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Comments 1 - 15 of 15
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1. Anonymous said... on May 25, 2010 at 11:11PM

“I don't know how the city can punish a whole city full of amazing music and events for the actions of a few. Why do we pay the police? What is this footloose? NO WAY”

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2. Anonymous said... on May 25, 2010 at 11:11PM

“Great Article!”

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3. Anonymous said... on May 26, 2010 at 11:30AM

“it's funny how when trouble hits "the good neighborhoods" they wanna find someone to blame and create new laws and bills. how bout we deal with trouble everywhere and not blame promoters for the downfalls of regular people.”

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4. Mark Wolfe said... on May 26, 2010 at 11:58AM

“Thanks for this long overdue article. finally interviewing the city council side of things.

As far as I can tell, the main gist of this bill has not changed yet despite the outcry and the many points that have been raised for clarity sake seem to be ignored by Councilman Greenlee. he must live in a bubble. It is time to pop that bubble and march on city council the day this goes to a vote. This bill is unfair and over-reaching and needs to be completely re-written.

I also would like answers to the lingering questions:
why were events that were over capacity allowed to continue? The event cited in the interview where the police were left feeling outmanned... why didn't they shut it down if it was over capacity? L&I does this all the time. I was at an Ezra Mohawk concert and the venue was closed down just before showtime by L&I due to code violations.

There are already laws that would deal with these issues, why the hell are the police of all people not enforcing the laws?”

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5. John said... on May 26, 2010 at 12:07PM

“"Darrell Clarke, says the issue came up because “a number of events happened in establishments and some unruly situations.” He adds: “The establishment person was basically absolved of any responsibility.”
^And why is that?^ Can someone please explain to me why charges were not brought against the guilty party in these rare and isolated incidents? Why must WE all suffer due to the lack of effort and/or ability to do the detective work necessary to bring the guilty party(s) to justice using laws which are already on the books?

This proposal is a clear and evident infringement on our 1st amendment rights. It yet again begs the question: why can't our city council and PD effectively do their jobs WITHIN the existing state and federal laws & without the need to recklessly overreach?

I am an event planner and promoter in Philadelphia, and If this passes I will no longer book events within the City Limits. Period.”

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6. Katie said... on May 26, 2010 at 12:30PM

“This bill has the potential to erode all of the efforts that have been made in the past 10 years to get young people to move to or stay in Philadelphia. If arts/music/nightlife events in the city dwindle because of the red tape of this bill, the economic implications could be great. When the bands can't play, there will be lost revenue for the bars and venues, resulting in less work for their staff and possible lost jobs. The lost revenue and jobs would mean less money going into Philly's already empty pocket. Philly should be doing something right now to create jobs, not creating paperwork that would essentially make it impossible to do jobs in events and entertainment.”

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7. Michael Tearson said... on May 26, 2010 at 02:37PM

“This bill is a disgrace. It could utterly shut down Philadelphia as a city where you can hear vibrant live music of all kinds, all genres. Once again the legit promoters have to carry the brunt of an unfair load, but it effects the little guy who just wants to do a small show even harder. I worry about the constitutionality of infringing on the right to peaceful assembly. And with all the worries about how stretched thin Philadelphia Police is, I am sure that undertaking the beuarocracy this bill will require is just how they have been waiting to allocate their already stretched resources. Bad on every count I can think of, and certainly several I haven't thought of yet. Philadelphia, the city that smothers its art scene.”

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8. Deiph said... on May 26, 2010 at 02:51PM

“Throw bill 100267 in the trash! Keep Philly arts in the hands of the artists! Sign the petition to show your support. We're already up to 13,000 signatures:”

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9. Anonymous said... on May 26, 2010 at 03:24PM

“great piece good journalism, this reads like a newspaper article - it's nice to see PW stepping up their game. bravo. keep it up.”

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10. Gena B said... on May 26, 2010 at 11:44PM

“Great article. Philadelphia has come so far, with getting tourists in, and building a down town that people want to spend money in. If we lose the nightlife and events that draw people, we lose the people, and we lose the income. We are constantly looking for ways to raise money in Philly. Maybe the city should look into hiring some of these 'promoters' to promote fund raising events, instead of charging us more taxes! Time to use our brains and be creative in this economy.. Concerts to pay the police force! Raves to pay for garbage collection! Beer gardens for the poor!”

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11. Anonymous said... on May 27, 2010 at 12:03PM

“....and I find it highly ironic how Greenlee attempts to use the argument that these alleged events - which were so relatively minor that most of us had not even heard about them until the introduction of this bill - will somehow financially hurt the city because tourists will not want to come to Philadelphia. Talk about a weak and short-sighted attempt at justification. I guess what City Council is REALLY saying is that since we'll soon be getting Casinos in Philly, they no longer need the art community and the revenue which it generates.”

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12. said... on May 27, 2010 at 04:54PM

“Listen to an interview with Councilman Greenlee @ Black Collar Radio on the podcast channel in the main player. While your there check out some of the best rock in the tri-state area.”

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13. DJ TRUUF said... on Jun 9, 2010 at 05:31PM

“This bill is just a pretext to whats to come. Philly has no nitelife as it is. Everybody is herded to OLD City because it can be policed. The decline in Philly Nitelife started over 10 years ago with the closing of all the clubs on Delaware ave. Center City and the Mall Shuts down at 7PM on Saturday so what else is there to do except go into the hoods. Mayor Nuttface has pulled one over on us. He snuck into office with his color. He tried to charge us for trash, he tried to charge us to drink beverages and now we cant even throw a party for our kids without getting the already overworked police dept and city L.I Dept to chase down anybody who passes out a flyer,sells a ticket or walks into a bar/club. IM MOVING OUT OF PHILLY ASAP--THIS CITY IS THE ABSOLUTE WORSE and dats da truuf”

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14. Anonymous said... on Jun 9, 2010 at 05:58PM

“The crime will rise once this is passed cause for some folks this is their primary source of income.”

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15. miriam sharpe said... on Feb 21, 2012 at 07:26PM

“this is not a comment: my name is miriam and I am looking for a pick me up for my restaurant at 223 south street philadelphia, the location is great but I still need to spice things up a bit! please contact me at 610-931-6084”


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