It’s no secret that multinational corporations are about as popular on Capitol Hill as Republican gubernatorial candidates. If you need a recent example, just look at the collective groan exhaled when Starbucks announced it was setting up shop at the corner of Pike and Broadway. Steve Severin, co-owner of Neumos and a handful of other Hill concerns, tweeted: “Keep corporations out of [the] Pike Pine corridor.”
Yet for some corporations, the neighborhood rolls out the red carpet.
When the Capitol Hill Block Party lineup was announced this morning (The Flaming Lips, Pickwick, etc.), so too were the names of the fest’s sponsors, a list headlined by Bud Light and Pacifico – brands of suds owned by Belgium-based AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, and the company that has provoked the ire of beer drinkers for allegedly watering down Beck’s.
“I don’t even think you can compare the two,” says Jason Lajeunesse, owner of Block Party and co-owner of Neumos, which hosts a stage during the fest. “You’re talking about a franchise on a culturally rich sort of neighborhood. This is a fixed permanent thing. We’re talking about a corporate sponsor who doesn’t have much presence at all. They aren’t a permanent part of the fixture, they’re actually making this culturally significant thing viable. I think they’re very different things.”
They may not be a permanent fixture in the neighborhood, but the corporate dollars are essential to the health of the neighborhood’s largest music festival.
“We’re not a Coachella, we’re not a Sasquatch!, we’re a much smaller festival, and our ticket prices are much, much cheaper,” Lajeunesse says. “We couldn’t do what we’re doing without the help of some of the sponsors we have in place.”
In other words: you may not need a multinational corporation to get a cup of coffee on the Hill, but if you’re putting on a festival, they come in pretty handy.