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Former LouFest Vendor Sues Festival For Defamation, Alleging Damage To Reputation

A view of the area where LouFest's main stage would have been, days after the festival's promoter tweeted that it was "100% on track" to stage the event. 9/13/18
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio
A view of the area where LouFest 2018's main stage would have been, days after the festival's promoter tweeted that it was "100% on track" to stage the event.

A former LouFest vendor, accused of sabotaging the 2018 festival in a since-abandoned lawsuit, has sued festival promoters, claiming the accusation damaged his professional reputation. 

In a lawsuit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court, Valley Park-based Logic Systems, a sound and lighting company led by Howard “Chip” Self, accused LouFest promoter Listen Live Entertainment and its principal, Mike Van Hee, of defamation, malicious prosecution and abuse of process. 

Logic Systems was among the vendors that pulled out of the 2018 festival about a week before it was due to kick off, citing Listen Live Entertainment’s history of late or missing payments to contractors for LouFest and other events. St. Louis Public Radio first reported the vendors' writhdrawal days before the festival was to begin.

The lawsuit is a response to one filed in February by Listen Live Entertainment. That suit accused Self of exaggerating the festival’s financial problems to reporters in an attempt to sabotage the festival and make way for his own event in Forest Park the next year. 

Listen Live Entertainment also claimed that Self went to the Office of Special Events for the City of St. Louis, while the feasibility of LouFest 2018 was still hanging in the balance, and asked whether he could get a permit for a musical festival in Forest Park on the same weekend the following year. 

However, Ann Chance, St. Louis Office of Special Events program executive, said in a February email to St. Louis Public Radio that her office had received no such requests from Self or anyone else representing Logic Systems. 

Listen Live dropped its suit in April.

A flotilla of brightly colored umbrellas hang suspended outside of the LouFest Store were used as a common meeting place throughout the weekend.
Credit File Photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio
LouFest had been a merry gathering for local music fans and a destination event for visitors to the region.

Charges of 'financial ineptitude'

In its lawsuit, Logic Systems claims the “real reason” LouFest 2018 fell apart was revealed in financial documents the promoter made available in relation to its suit. 

Listen Live’s “purpose in filing the lawsuit was to provide a cover for them in explaining why LouFest 2018 was cancelled rather than accepting the blame for their own financial ineptitude,” Self’s lawyers say in the lawsuit.

Self said the charges made by Listen Live have hurt his professional reputation and cost him business. “Everybody in this industry talks,” Self said. “I’ve heard from promoters and competitors and friends that it’s damaged our reputation.” 

Listen Live principal Mike Van Hee “knowingly and maliciously made the defamatory and false statements in an effort to place the blame of the LouFest 2018 cancellation” on Self, the lawsuit claims, “rather than accepting that the cancellation was the result of Van Hee’s financial troubles and inability to meet his contractual obligations.”

Van Hee did not respond to requests for comment. 

Ryan Mahoney, an attorney for Listen Live Entertainment, said in February that the promoter’s suit against Logic Systems was part of the process of “remedying the cancellation of last year’s festival and working to rebuild it for years to come.”

Self said a particularly damaging allegation in Listen Live’s suit was that he planned to launch a music festival of his own. Such an event would have competed with the very promoters that are Logic Systems’ client base. 

“We don’t compete with our customers,” Self said. 

A continuing legal tangle

Last year, Logic Systems sued for over $70,000 it claims Listen Live Entertainment owes it for work on the canceled festival, plus three other events held earlier that year. The trial date was recently moved from late October to Dec. 18. 

The continuing legal tangle over the collapse of LouFest has implications for future large-scale music festivals in the city, said LouFest founder Brian Cohen. In September, Cohen — who left Listen Live after the 2015 festival — said parties who are potentially interested in launching a similar event would be watching carefully. 

“If there are other promoters looking at St. Louis, it would help them to know if LouFest collapsed because of the management or because the market simply couldn’t sustain it. I think it’s the former. I think the collapse of LouFest says more about the people who were running it than it does about St. Louis’ viability as a festival town,” Cohen said.

Jeremy can be found on Twitter @jeremydgoodwin.

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