In a statement scheduled to be released to the press later today,
Sunset's John Miles said, "We looked at this from every angle and met
with all stakeholders, including the Mayor's office, Supervisor Chiu's
office, the SFPD and the Rec. and Park Department... Despite everyone's
good-faith efforts, the numbers simply didn't add up. We need to go
back to the drawing board."
"This is gonna be a big deal for a lot of people," said Sunset's Robbie Kowal. Though he would have been happy to break even, last year's festival lost money, he said, and this year, the prognosis looked even grimmer. Sunset had hoped that corporate sponsors would come to the rescue, and city officials did everything they could to match up NBJF with a willing suitor but, alas, there was no knight in a shiny three-piece Brioni willing to take the plunge in this current economic downturn. "There is no Getty batphone," Kowal admits. The bottom line, he says, is, "we couldn't afford it."
Unfortunately, Kowal says, "free events are not free to produce." The costs of producing the festival, which began in 1994, had risen substantially, Kowal says, noting that a change in the festival configuration at the behest of local residents who opposed alcohol sales had resulted in a 40% rise in overhead. At the same time, revenues slumped, and this year seemed especially bleak, with fewer European tourists visiting SF in general and North Beach in particular due to a weaker Euro and a stronger dollar. At the same time, incremental rises in city services - and the city's budget deficit - made the writing on the wall impossible to ignore. Ultimately, the NBJF was "not sustainable given the present circumstances," Kowal said.
Kowal and Miles have high hopes they will be able to restructure the festival's business model and return in 2010 for the official 15th anniversary. To that end, they are working with Supervisor David Chui, the Northern Station Police Department, and Mayor Gavin Newsom.
In the meantime, Sunset have announced two all-ages benefit shows
July 24 and 25 at the Great American Music Hall, both featuring
frequent NBJF participants the Rebirth Brass Band. Ticket info is here. For updates on the NBJF, click here.