Sunset Jazz Fest goes on regardless of challenges

Despite some setbacks, the show went on last Saturday on the city-owned “Chili Cook-off” site in the Malibu Civic Center. The Sunset Jazz Fest came to Malibu for the first time and delivered a six-hour concert featuring five smooth jazz artists: Will Downing, Najee, Freda Payne, Jason Leopold, and Jacques Lesure.

The fest was put on by concert promoter Hudson Baxter and hosted by special guest Pat Prescott, who does the morning show on 94.7 “The Wave” radio. Various booths and food trucks were onsite.

Even though the “Fest” was to take place from about 2 to 8 p.m.; at about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, cars were still lined up all the way down the block to get into the designated parking area, which was charging $25 or $30 per vehicle. The parking process appeared to be a slow, exasperating experience. Off-site, every parking space for a half-mile around was full. Some smooth jazz fans went as far the Ralphs parking lot, and then walked across Pacific Coast Highway to get to the venue.

Two days after the event, the City of Malibu sent out a letter emphasizing that this was not a city-sponsored event, stating that the Sunset Jazz Fest was a privately operated live music event, on Saturday, July 30, resulting in numerous problems that, unfortunately, negatively impacted attendees of the event. Complaints and concerns from attendees about lack of organization and poor service were received.

The City stated that they had three full-time Community Services Department staff and three Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputies on-site throughout the day to monitor the event. While the event was held on the City-owned lot at 23575 Civic Center Way (also known as the Chili Cook-Off site), the City did not sponsor, organize or promote the event, and the City’s only role was in processing and issuing the event permit.

“The City of Malibu is committed to ensuring that any permitted events in the City follow the law and City permitting rules that are in place to protect the health and safety of the community and visitors, as well as the environment and the quality of life of the community,” the press release explained. “Any questions, complaints, or requests for refunds for the event should directed to the event organizer.”

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Although the concert promoter said last week that 2,000 tickets had been sold, attendance was still somewhat light as of 3:30 p.m., but the live music was in full swing. The concert venue was surrounded by a see-through chain-link fence, which allowed some lucky fans to park close, sit in their vehicles with the windows down, and enjoy the music without buying tickets.

As Malibu Times reporter Samantha Bravo reported, on July 21, the city Planning Department decided to revoke its conditional approval of the concert just nine days before the event. They claimed a fraudulent liquor license, as well as failure to fulfill conditions of the Temporary Use Permit and provide accurate information.

Because concert promoter and permit applicant Hudson Baxter had already invested money and sold nearly 2,000 tickets, he appealed the decision. He claimed the liquor license was not fraudulently obtained, that he notified the city that alcohol was proposed, and that the Malibu Municipal Code didn’t prohibit such events. He argued that a vendor/expediter was responsible for preparing the liquor permit, and had simply made a mistake on it. He asked if the city would agree to allow the event if he withdrew the request for alcohol sales.

A special meeting of the Planning Commission was called last Thursday to discuss the appeal; and the commission unanimously granted the appeal with the condition that alcohol not be served. Thus, the Planning Commission overrode the Planning Department’s decision to cancel the event. 

“Sunset Jazz Fest” has been organizing jazz concerts at various venues around the country for the past 30 years, claiming to provide the “ultimate experience” for jazz enthusiasts.

Musicians perform on stage at the Sunset Jazz Festival last Saturday afternoon on the Chili Cook-Off site. Photos by Jimy Tallal/TMT.

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