Just a week before the counterculture community's most important week is slated to begin, Burning Man filed suit against the remote Nevada desert county in which it takes place.
Officials in Pershing County, Nev., imposed a new ordinance that would implement a number of restrictions against the event, including increased permitting fees and bans on children and nudity. According to Burning Man organizers, the new rules threaten the future of the festival.
“For more than 20 years, the Burning Man community has proudly made northern Nevada its home, providing millions of dollars annually to the local economy,” Burning Man founder Larry Harvey said in a statement. “We love Nevada. Unfortunately, Pershing County is making it difficult to continue doing business here. We intend to resolve this matter through reasonable means and work collaboratively with Nevadans to keep our business in the state.”
In its suit, Burning Man's parent company, Black Rock LLC, claims that Pershing County has unfairly exercised its authority by imposing a slew of additional fees. The Burning Blog reads:
In early 2011, the county insisted that BRC pay a significantly higher fee by entering into a new agreement. BRC complied with this request in order to maintain good relations with the county. But then in May of this year, the county breached this agreement with BRC and imposed a much higher fee of $400,000.
This fee is $280,000 more than the county incurred in event-related expenses for the 2011 event and much more than the estimated $180,000 law enforcement cost for the event in 2012 cited by a representative from the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office. County commissioners said the 2013 fee would be $600,000 to $800,000 and could exceed $1 million in the future.
Pershing County was quick to fire back against Burning Man's assertions. "The residents of Pershing County should not be required to flip the bill for the business conducted by a [$20 million plus] business," a statement sent to the Reno Gazette-Journal by District Attorney James Shirley read.
Burning Man organizers argue that festival patrons already contribute millions of dollars to Nevada's coffers through traffic to Reno-Tahoe International Airport and the purchasing of local goods and services, noting that the only goods sold at the event itself are coffee and ice. "The Burning Man event has been held in the Black Rock Desert for more than 20 years and is a keystone contributor to the economy of northern Nevada," the blog post added.
The ordinance would go into effect of this year, therefore greatly impacting next year's event.
For their part, Burning Man insiders remain optimistic. “I’m confident we can get through this and people will see us out in the Black Rock Desert in 2013," Black Rock City board member Marian Goodell said to the Gazette-Journal. "Northern Nevada is a perfect home for Burning Man.”
The pop-up desert oasis that promotes "radical self expression" will officially run from Monday, August 27 through Labor Day Weekend.
Take a look at the full complaint filed by Burning Man below: