City advertises for candidates to run Packard Music Hall

WARREN — The city has begun looking for a management team to operate Packard Music Hall over the next five or more years.

The contract with JAC Management Group is scheduled to end in September, so officials are seeking qualified candidates that may be able to operate the music hall well into the future.

The city placed an advertisement in the magazine Venues Today on Jan. 1 that will run through Jan. 23. The ad states the city is seeking sealed statements of qualifications for the management of W.D. Packard Music Hall that will be sent to the hall’s board of trustees in care of Warren Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa.

The advertisement does not outline what qualifications the city believes the potential vendor should have.

“We are doing it this way to make sure that we have candidates with the necessary experience to operate a municipal music hall,” Cantalamessa said. “We are looking for entities that are credible and capable and have years of experience operating a municipal facility, not just promoting shows.

“It is one thing to be a promoter and another to be responsible for the operation of the facility,” he continued. “We’re trying to avoid non-qualified applicants.”

While JAC has the capability to manage the facility, promote its own shows, as well as work with other promoters in booking their shows, Cantalamessa said they are not necessarily looking for the next management company to do the same.

“We are not going to pre-judge the submittals,” Cantalamessa said. “The next operator does not also have to be a promoter.”

JAC, if its owners choose to do so, may also bid on the next contract.

The city entered into an agreement to have an outside company operate the music hall because it had been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for a decade.

The JAC agreement allowed it to reduce the amount of subsidy by $50,000 per year over the past four years from $300,000 to $150,000 in the fourth year. The original contract was three years, with JAC having the option to continue it in each of the last two years.

Eric Ryan, owner of JAC Management, last year told city officials he could not operate the music hall with only the $100,000 subsidy scheduled to be given in the fifth year of the agreement. Council agreed in December to make available $200,000 for the music hall in the city’s 2018 budget proposal, so there would be enough money available for JAC to operate the facility in the fifth year, if necessary.

Once Cantalamessa receives the requests for qualifications and determines which applicants fit the city’s needs, they will be asked to submit proposals.

Once the proposals for the next contract are received, Cantalamessa said they will be shared with members of the Packard Music Hall Board of Trustees, at which time they will work with the city to select which proposal is best for the operation of the hall.

“The board has been and will continue to be informed of what is being done throughout this process,” Cantalamessa said. “We are the board’s proxy.”

Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at Large, said council is interested in the music hall diversifying its lineup of acts to include different styles of music and performances.

“We are looking for some better programming,” Rucker said. “We would like to see them book, for example, entertainers who perform different musical styles that attract all kinds of people.”

Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-at Large, said the current contract accomplished his two main goals of bringing quality entertainment back to downtown Warren and reducing the subsidy level the city has been paying over the years.

“I know there are some people who argue the city has paid a million dollars in subsidy over the course of this current contract, but if nothing was done the city would have paid twice that amount in keeping the door open.”