Stick a fork in the Taste of Minnesota.
After nearly 30 years of celebrating July Fourth with food, music and fireworks in St. Paul, the festival owners have officially called it quits because they are broke and can't pay their bills.
International Event Management, the firm that took over the event in 2009, told creditors Friday that it was shutting down Taste immediately.
The event lured hundreds of thousands of revelers after it began in 1983 as an entertainment option for city folks who stayed home for the holiday.
The management firm had been looking for additional financing or a buyer for the festival after taking a loss this summer. "We sincerely regret that we will be unable to fulfill our obligations to you," according to a letter written by Andy Faris, the firm's managing partner. The letter, addressed to "creditors of the 2010 Taste of Minnesota," was dated Oct. 29.
Faris declined Monday to comment further. The city of St. Paul alone is owed more than $110,000 for rent and police services. Other vendors, from food companies to janitorial services are out thousands, too.
"It's sad for the city of St. Paul and what has been a really good event," said Jill Skogheim, operations director for the 5-8 Club restaurants. The 5-8 Club, which had served up food at Taste for the past seven years, is owed between $11,000 and $12,000. "It's unfortunate and we take a loss from this, but we paid our vendors and don't owe anyone related to Taste."
Richie Holdings Inc. has filed a claim in Ramsey County conciliation court, alleging it's owed $7,802. The Metropolis Foundation, a youth rugby nonprofit, sued organizers alleging it wasn't paid $12,636 for working the event.
The city warned Faris in September that if his company couldn't come up with the money or a plan to pay its debts that Taste would be kicked off Harriet Island.
Faris asked for an extension, but it wasn't granted. The deadline came and went, and the city rescinded its agreement with the event in early October. Now, the city is taking proposals for a new July Fourth weekend event at Harriet Island.
Faris' letter references the city's termination of the agreement: "The net result of this, unfortunately, is that we have exhausted all known avenues for a sale of Taste, meaning that you and other creditors will receive no additional payments, as there is no money."
Faris said in the letter that he and his partners had "personally lost substantial amounts of money" and wanted to find a way to keep Taste going. The letter did not mention bankruptcy or other next steps.
"It stings for everybody involved," said Joe Spencer, arts and culture aide to Mayor Chris Coleman. He added that a July Fourth event in St. Paul is an important tradition and that city officials are committed to continuing it.
Proposals for a replacement event are due Nov. 17, and officials plan to award a contract in December. Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Brad Meyer said there have been several inquiries.
Parks and rec is owed about $23,700, while police are owed $87,500. The departments will need to eat the loss in their budgets. The bulk of those amounts would not come from property taxes, but from accounts that are funded through fees.
Kieran Folliard, owner of several Irish pubs in the Twin Cities, said the festival had potential, and that's why his St. Paul pub, the Liffey, had a booth at the event this year. The Liffey lost "a couple of grand."
Clearly, the festival's latest recipe didn't work, but history points to some past success.
"I imagine it [Taste of Minnesota] will get resurrected," Folliard said.
Staff writer Chao Xiong contributed to this story. Chris Havens • 612-673-4148