Cow Palace events nixed after overdose deaths

It will mean a loss of revenue, but the cash-strapped Cow Palace in Daly City has banned ravelike shows after two people died and several others were hospitalized from apparent drug and alcohol overdoses this year.

Two people died after the etd.POP 2010 show in May and at least 16 were hospitalized in October at Spookfest. The state-owned venue’s board decided the two events will not return in 2011.

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with these events,” Cow Palace CEO Joe Barkett said, adding that he couldn’t move forward without reasonable assurance that young people would not be overdosing on drugs. “Adding X number of police is not going to change it.”

But the decision will set the state-owned venue back about $250,000 while it is still paying off a $500,000 debt for years of hosting its main attraction, the Grand National Rodeo.

In 2009, the rodeo was canceled for fear of the venue falling further into debt, then resurrected this year with a reduced schedule.

“We’re working very hard to try to bring in new and different events,” Barkett said, adding that he is negotiating with a few major organizers. “We’ve also already done some things to reduce our costs, such as reorganization of our staff.”

The rodeo is the only event run by the state, while the rest of the year the venue relies on revenue from rental contracts such as from the etd.POP show or the annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair.

But the decision was not enough for state Sen. Leland Yee, who in the past has tried to take the venue out of California’s hands and sell it to Daly City for residential development. More recently, he sought greater oversight after the overdoses.

“While I am pleased that the Cow Palace has placed a moratorium on these types of events, it is imperative that we find a long-term solution to ensure proper oversight, accountability and public safety,” he said in a statement.

Barkett said the decision does not apply to other music concerts that fans all around the Bay Area have attended for years, featuring such bands as AC/DC and Prince. And the rodeo is scheduled to go on next year.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsCow PalaceLocalSan Francisco

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