Photo and report
by Logan Hall
The Ojai City Council voted unanimously in closed session Tuesday night to allow local event promoter Howard Freiberg to put on his annual classic rock festival at Libbey Bowl.
After an initial decision by city manager Rob Clark denying Freiberg permits for the concerts, which are scheduled for August, Freiberg and his attorney, Cathy Jones, who also attended the meeting, threatened the city with litigation on the issue. After hearing public comments and discussing the matter behind closed doors, the council decided to overturn Clark’s decision.
With Mayor Carol Smith and Councilwoman Betsy Clapp absent, the council heard comments from Freiberg and his supporters that included a heated statement by Freiberg’s production manager, Ardas Khalsa.
“The city manager has chosen to overstep his authority …” said Khalsa to the council in a raised voice. “It’s discrimination, and it’s illegal.”
Freiberg and Khalsa alleged that Clark’s original denial of the application stemmed from Freiberg’s unpaid debt to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department regarding permits for a previous event held at Lake Casitas.
“The debts came from my battle with cancer,” said Freiberg. He admitted to the debt but said everything had been worked out with the VCSD. “I have past debts,” he continued, “but that’s in the past.”
Freiberg and Khalsa also stated that Clark told them he didn’t think their concert would have the proper image for the bowl. Clark says that he never had any problem with the type of music Freiberg was planning but there were some concerns. “This is the first event outside of the Music Festival that permitted alcohol,” Clark said in an interview. “Since alcohol at Libbey Bowl is new and somewhat controversial, we want to make sure it’s done the right way and in a controlled way.”
In his reasoning for denying Freiberg’s initial request, Clark says that the city relies on event promoters to handle aspects of the events like security, fencing, and how much alcohol is sold and for how long. He said the unpaid debt with the Sheriff’s Department indicated that Freiberg’s event might not be the best to lead the way with alcohol sales at the bowl.
Clark, however, did point out that Freiberg and his crew had done a good job on previous events held in the valley. “These guys do have a good track record,” Clark said. “They’ve put on a number of events that have had alcohol and those events went well. At the end of the day, we’re relying on that track record.”
Ultimately, the council decided to grant Freiberg permission to host his event.
“We’re in cooperation mode now,” said Clark. “We plan on working professionally with him and making sure his event goes smoothly.”