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Coachella threatens to relocate if 10 percent tax increase goes through

By Sean Michaels, The Guardian
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 13:54 EDT
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The Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival may relocate from Indio, California, its site since 1999. Organisers have threatened to move the festival site if Indio calls a referendum on a proposed tax that would add between $18 (£11.50) and $36 (£23) to the cost of weekend tickets.

“If the tax initiative … gets on the ballot, we’re going to take off [in] 2014,” said Paul Tollett, president of Coachella’s parent company, in an interview with the Desert Sun. “[By] 2015 we’ll be at a new facility outside of Indio.”

Tollett and his promotions company, Goldenvoice, are angry about a plan developed by city councilman Sam Torres, who has proposed an admissions tax of between 5% and 10% for events of more than 2,500 people. Although this measure was voted down by the city council, Torres is circulating a petition to make the tax a referendum issue in November. By 10 August, he must collect 2,700 signatures from Indio residents. Although Torres offered on Tuesday to end his campaign for signatures, it was only on condition that he be added to Indio’s Coachella negotiating committee.

“Why in the world would we stay where we are not wanted?” a Goldenvoice vice-president reportedly told Torres. But Tollett has been more diplomatic. “We love the city,” he said. “[But] we think this tax is outrageous for all the things we’ve done with Indio … [Sam's] slogan should be: ‘I want to turn the City of Festivals into the City of Festival’ – the Tamale festival, which is free … That’s his legacy.”

If Coachella does relocate, they will probably not go far. According to Tollett, Coachella already generates several million tax dollars for its host city, and several nearby counties have shown an interest in this business. “In any other place, this festival would have had a long-term deal,” he complained. “With Indio, it’s been this year-to-year thing.”

In less than a decade and a half, Coachella has become one of the United States’ most important festivals. Famous for its eclectic and offbeat lineups, the event has also helped spur the reunions of acts such as Rage Against the Machine, Pavement and the Jesus and Mary Chain. In 2012, more than 80,000 people attended the festival over two weekends.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

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