An Indio City Council member who created an uproar when he suggested a new ticket tax on the hugely popular Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival backed away from his proposal Thursday.
Councilman Sam Torres' concept of a 5-to-10 percent admission tax this week generated intense speculation that the festival, which started in 1999, would leave the small desert city for more financially friendly digs.
Paul Tollett, president of festival promoter Goldenvoice, had responded to Torres' proposal with threats last week to move Coachella out of Indio. He told the Palm Springs Desert Sun newspaper that he would cancel the 2014 festival with plans to build a new facility outside the city in 2015.
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That in turn generated panic from the festival's avid fans, who paid a minimum of $349 for a weekend pass for the 2013 festival. In May, advance tickets for next year's April festival sold out in two hours.
Tollett told the newspaper that the tax would amount to $36 per ticket, a cost he said he would not pass on to ticket-buyers. That would mean Goldenvoice would lose $4 million to $6 million, Tollett said.
Torres, pictured below at right, had said his tax would affect events that admit more than 2,500 people beginning in 2014. The Indio City Council voted down Torres' proposal on June 6, but the councilman vowed to gather enough signatures to place it on the municipal ballot.
On Thursday afternoon, he said he would "suspend" his pursuit of a ballot initiative, according to a press release on the city of Indio's website. He said the potential negative economic impact of the festival's potential move swayed him.
"I cannot in good conscience allow this to happen no matter how dire the city’s circumstance," Torres said in a press released posted at 4 p.m. "My sincere hope is that we can now move past this episode and I personally look forward to working to enhance relationships."
Speaking to NBC4 earlier in the day, Torres had said "I don't take a threat by Paul Tollett lightly."
When pressed about whether he still supported the tax, Torres said ealier Thursday that he would give up his proposal to ensure the festival stays in Indio.
"No matter how strongly I may feel about this tax, I'll not jeopardize the livelihoods of working families," he told NBC4.
The city's press release noted Goldenvoice is a "major regional employer" that has supported local organizations in the region and brought "millions of dollars of revenue to support the local community."
Indio Mayor Glenn Miller, who had opposed Torres' tax proposal, said in the press release that the city was committed to working with Goldenvoice to ensure the festival stays in Indio.
Coachella grossed $47 million with record-setting attendance at its two-weekend festival in April, which drew more than 158,000 festival-goers, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Goldenvoice is a subsidiary of concert giant AEG Live, the live-entertainment division of Los Angeles-based AEG, which owns the Staples Center and many other venues across the country.