The Ojai City Council has tabled a vote on whether or not to give Sterling Venue Ventures, the management company behind The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills and Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, approval to begin booking shows at the Libbey Bowl. The Council expressed concerns that the agreement hadn’t been vetted thoroughly nor had the process been as inclusionary as it should have been.
Sterling Venue Ventures Owner Lance Sterling says that he had hoped to put on around 17 shows a year at Libbey Bowl, with 50-60 days in operation starting next summer, and that it "was a bit of a shock" when the Council decided to scrap the vote.
"They were arguing about the merits about what the Libbey Bowl is and what it was built for," said Sterling. "But more of the issue is that they have a $6 million investment sitting there and I think half of them understand that you can’t just leave it there; it’s going to fall apart if you let it sit there."
Sterling is in the midst of building a new venue in Pasadena called The Rose, which he says will remain the focus of his attention until the Council decides what it wants to do.
The Bowl has a capacity for up to 1,300 guests in fixed seats and on the lawn and has hosted several festivals a year, including a classical music series, but hasn’t had a regular yearly series of concerts since being renovated. The Libbey Bowl Foundation, which booked events at the Bowl, ended its contract with the city several months ago.
Now, the Libbey Bowl only plays host to the Ojai Music Festival, its calendar bare on the official website.
Ojai City Councilman Bill Weirick says that there is a "sense of needing to ramp up the level of activity" but that they need to "ramp it up in a way appropriate for the community."
"I think the overall feeling from public comment was that we need to slow down," said Weirick. "I don’t think there was any opposition to Sterling [Venue] Ventures specifically. In fact most people were very complimentary of Sterling [Venue] Ventures, but that has to be in service to the goals of the community."
Weirick says that he also had concerns over the contract itself having not had a "professional review of the insurance and indemnification parts of the agreement."
The original concept was created by an ad hoc committee consisting of Mayor Pro Tem Paul Blatz and Councilmember Randy Haney. The future of the Libbey Bowl will return to said committee with the inclusion of stake holders in the community, such as the Ojai Music Festival, the Ojai Chamber of Commerce and others, says Mayor Severo Lara.
"We’re basically trying to define our golden objective with what we want for this venue," said Lara.