March 29, 2020
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Bangor says contract with KahBang is terminated

BANGOR, Maine — A City Council committee agreed that KahBang organizers breached their five-year contract with the city when they decided to move the music and arts festival to Portland this year, three weeks before showtime.

“At this point we consider the contract with KahBang to be terminated,” council Chairman Ben Sprague said after emerging from an hourlong executive session held during a meeting of the city’s government operations committee.

That contract is now void, and Kahbang no longer will have a weekend in August reserved at the Bangor Waterfront for its festival in 2015 or 2016, the years that remained on its contract. Waterfront Concerts, the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau or any other group now could seek to host an event on the weekends that formerly belonged to KahBang.

KahBang still could return to Bangor but would need to apply for an event permit as any other group wanting to use the waterfront venue would.

City Solicitor Norm Heitmann will send a letter Tuesday to KahBang organizers notifying them of the city’s decision. There may still be a vote of the full council on the status of the contract, but Heitmann said that might not be necessary.

No KahBang representatives attended Monday night’s meeting, but even if they had they wouldn’t have been allowed into the contract discussion because it was held in executive session.

“But we would welcome them to have a conversation with the full council soon, or after their event, or any time in the next year,” Sprague said, adding that he understands this was a difficult business decision for organizers to make.

Councilors were frustrated to learn of KahBang’s sudden change of venue on Thursday through a story published by the Bangor Daily News, Sprague said. No one from the organization reached out city officials to notify them or seek solutions to a number of problems that prompted the move.

Organizers have cited several reasons for the move, including sluggish ticket sales and difficulty finding campground space in the area. They have said they hope to return the festival to Bangor next year. Now, they’ll have to apply for the right to do so.

The city is unlikely to pursue any legal action against the festival.

“We receive a very small amount of money from KahBang each year, and our legal department has other things to focus on,” Sprague said. “Our focus at this point is finding a different event to fill that space for this year” and future years if needed.

Heitmann said it was his opinion that KahBang had committed an “anticipatory breach” of contract by reneging on its commitment to host its festival on the Bangor Waterfront before the event. City councilors agreed.

Messages left for KahBang officials Monday night after the meeting were not immediately returned, however, they’ve said that the move to Portland this year was necessary for the survival of the festival.

It’s unclear whether KahBang will dispute the city’s decision to terminate the contract.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter @nmccrea213.

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