Brown Paper Tickets, which was sued over failure to pay out millions owed to clients amid the COVID-19 pandemic by the Washington Attorney General, is reportedly still missing payments two years later. The ticketing company was taken to task in a report from the San Francisco Chronicle, which detailed a rash of new clients still experiencing issues with lingering payment delays as the company remains behind on its obligations.
“My heart just sank and I was flabbergasted,” recalled Inverness Theatre Project leader Sharron Drake, who found herself waiting on payments from Brown Paper Tickets long after their first post-COVID production closed. With bills from production costs coming due and no money out of more than $12,000 gross ticket sales paid out, she and her husband began searching for information, only to find the trail of unpaid clients that had led to the first round of lawsuits against the ticketing operation.
“He started reading to me this litany of nonprofits and arts organizations saying, ‘Hey, it’s been two years, and I haven’t been paid yet.'”
Reporting from The Chronicle indicated that Inverness was just one of many California-area clients of Brown Paper Tickets that are owed money for past productions. Emeryville choreographer Nancy Karp is owed about $2,000, Berkeley’s Central Works $583, and local theater company Queer Cat Productions $350 for an event at the Stud, all from early 2020. Brown Paper Tickets sent a check to Nicole Jost, Queer Cat’s co-artistic director, but then sent an email saying not to deposit the check, she said. She wound up having to pay a bounced-check fee in addition to not getting her payment. East Bay youth theater company Stars 2000 is owed more than $30,000 for its July production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Musical Theatre Works, which works with children in San Francisco, hadn’t been paid almost $14,000 for its May production of “The Music Man” until after The Chronicle began reporting this story.
“They were just supposed to be holding on to this money that they were going to take a little cut of and send us what was ours,” Jost said. “My biggest frustration this whole time has been all their excuses about a pandemic. They passed the burden along to all these small arts organizations and individual artists, and that’s disgusting.”
It turned out that the ticketing service owed $9 million to an estimated 45,000 event producers and ticket buyers. In March 2021, Brown Paper Tickets agreed to pay its $9 million debt.
In a statement back in October 2021 to Seattle Times, the company said, “Brown Paper Tickets voluntarily entered into the original agreement with the State of Washington Attorney General’s Office, and though we are behind schedule, the team at Brown Paper Tickets, both here in the company’s Seattle headquarters and at its offices globally, remains dedicated to this process.”
Brionna Aho, a spokesperson for the attorney general, told The Chronicle, the ticketing company had paid approximately $7 million of the initial $9 million it owed, which covered all its customers in Washington.
“BPT has until December 30 to substantially complete refunds to other customers,” she said. She advised unpaid producers whose events took place after November 2020 to file new complaints.
The Better Business Bureau, a private, nonprofit organization which focuses on advancing marketplace trust, received 162 complaints against Brown Paper Tickets even after the lawsuit in 2022, ABC7 reported. They have an “F” rating on Better Business Bureau’s website.
“We are seeing that on the business side, maybe is a business as in this case, that hosted a production with tickets through Brown Paper Tickets, and they did not receive those funds. We are seeing it from the consumer side as well,” said Logan Hickle, PR and communications manager for the Better Business Bureau.
Brown Paper Tickets General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Michael Sennott said that Brown Paper Tickets would continue making daily payments to event organizers and would continue to do so until everyone was paid in full. “The Brown Paper Tickets team looks forward to accelerating the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and getting back to focusing on supporting event organizers with their events,” he concluded.
Last Updated on October 7, 2022