Dissatisfied with crippling the local music scene, transplant millionaire Nick Checota now demands Missoula’s charity so he can remain affluent. He appeared in multiple media spots last week to finally concede at last what his TIF opponents saw coming over a year ago: the imminent, systemic financial collapse of the entertainment industry.
“The industry as a whole is in almost catastrophic state right now, said Checota. “And without some support, coming within the next 6-to-8 weeks, you’re going to see venues collapse all over the United States.”
Framing his own financial emergency as a community problem, Nick alleges that Missoula area businesses have collectively suffered an estimated $100 million in losses:
“One-dollar on a ticket has $10 of restaurants, bars beverage merchandise — all those different pieces. All of that’s lost,” Checota said. “And if you think of Logjam, I mean, we sold $10 million worth of tickets last year. And if you follow that logic it is a huge number that is now absent from the economy and total spending — in total, multiplier.”
But Nick’s self-serving math doesn’t quite add up. Last year local restaurants were shutting down in droves despite record concert sales by Nick’s Logjam Empire.
Long before the economic effects of the pandemic began to manifest, more than a dozen Missoula institutions were forced to shut down due to property tax increases. Those exploding taxes are a direct result of the City’s misuse and abuse of public funds with elaborate Tax Increment Financing schemes that enrich wealthy developers like Checota at the detriment to and expense of the Missoula community. So while readers may appreciate Nick’s simplistic logic, the claim that concert goers are critical to keeping restaurants alive is clearly bogus.
While Checota gloats about how he did a whopping $10 million just in ticket sales last year, he simultaneously implies that anything less than that is unacceptable. But most Missoula businesses didn’t pull in anything close to that kind of profit last year. $10 million is a lot of money in Montana. And that figure, massive as it is already, does not include alcohol sales, which is the real cash cow in Nick’s industry.
Checota’s losses do not equate to Missoula’s losses, no matter how indispensable he thinks he is to the local economy. On the contrary, they signal a possible return to normal. In the absence of high-priced events Missoula’s dwindling local music scene might potentially recover. Local bands could again reclaim a prominent position in the limited attention span of post-pandemic entertainment.
With every act Nick’s reputation dives lower and lower to the point that the only friends he seems to have left are the local propagandists he pays for his PR spots. Checota has, after all, made a lot of enemies since he arrived in Missoula, and not without good reason. He’s inflicted measurable harm on the Garden City. This harm includes a widely-publicized incident where Logjam literally destroyed the Osprey stadium turf with an overcrowded Mumford and Sons concert (and made Missoula taxpayers pay for the damage), thus prompting litigation by Big Sky Professional Baseball for severe financial losses. But more important and pernicious is the day-to-day metastasis of the Checota Empire and all its affiliate shell companies. Monopolizing Missoula’s live music scene was just the beginning.
Unlike every other venue in town, Checota snubbed local talent in his blind obsession to maximize short-term profits. No public figure is more directly responsible for the evisceration of Missoula’s local music scene than Nick Checota. Missoula used to be home to literally hundreds of bands from every part of the musical spectrum. In fact, Missoula hosted numerous music contests, including the Zoo Music Awards, Sean Kelly’s Top Of The Mic and KbandGA. It’s no coincidence that all of these competitions began to disappear following Checota’s acquisition of the Top Hat. The renovation of that venue transformed 134 Front Street from an iconic Missoula institution into the ominous headquarters for Nick’s pillaging of greater Missoula.
After purchasing the Top Hat in 2012, he bought the Wilma Theater and began driving out competing clubs and local bands. While many avid concertgoers justifiably welcomed the Checota-funded restoration of the crumbling Wilma Theater, the renovation of the historic concert space hasn’t been without drawbacks.
Articles in the Missoula Independent and Montana Kaimin allude to a consistent and annoying theme that emerged at Wilma concerts following Checota’s takeover. Performers, particularly opening acts, are forced to compete with the wall of sound from obnoxiously drunk and absurdly loud concertgoers who drown out the very performances they paid to see. The renovation of the theater space included an expansion and relocation of the bar, allowing concert attendees to get dangerously smashed without having to miss a note of the performance (except, of course, the notes that can’t be heard over their own raucous shouting).
After the double-whammy of the Wilma and Top Hat put the pinch on various other downtown music venues, Logjam expanded its assault to include a direct offensive aimed at Big Sky Brewing’s limited concert placements. Checota built the Bonner Amphitheater to set his sights on gargantuan high-level touring acts and massive crowds, and when Big Sky expressed concern over Nick’s encroachment, he declared a boycott on Big Sky’s products. He deflected The Knitting Factory’s allegations of “anti-competitive practices” on shady legal technicalities. And on top of it all, he tried to extract more than $16 million from Missoula’s tax coffers to build yet another concert venue on top of his existing three.
And while he didn’t get his fancy events center, he did manage to convince Governor Bullock to give him a million dollars in “relief” this year. Checota’s behavior aligns with that of the super-rich nationwide as he attempts to fail upward. Another initiate of The Art of the Steal.
But perhaps the most revealing indication of Nick’s true feelings about the Missoula community comes through in his handling of our criticism. On facebook, Checota regularly bullies opponents of his projects, regardless of the validity of their concerns:
And now Mr. Checota wants help from the community that he’s been fucking over ever since he slithered into town? Doesn’t he know he can’t go around antagonizing and threatening everyone without a single atonement and then ask us for help? Even Ebenezer Scrooge had to repent for his greed and cruelty before receiving redemption, and as you may recall from A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s act of redemption was to SPEND money from his considerable fortune to help those around him; not stick his head out the window and demand even more money from a passing orphan.
The Missoula locals who expressed skepticism over the feasibility of the Riverfront Triangle were absolutely right in their appraisal of the situation last year. They warned that taxpayer-subsidized condos and theaters constitute the wrong direction in today’s volatile economic climate. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the wealthy to ignore that volatility any longer. Yet despite Nick Checota’s abysmal track record and detestable reputation, he still has the temerity to extend his hand out and beg for cash-strapped Missoulians to help line his silk pockets.
Be careful if you decide to drop a dollar in the Salvation Army’s bucket at the grocery store this Christmas. That fat bearded man ringing the bell for your charity could be Nick Checota in disguise.
Despite Logjam’s desperate attempts to depict itself as The Fountainhead at the top of Missoula’s trickle-down economy, of all the business closures in Missoula, Checota’s seems the least important – by far. After all, concerts are a luxury industry, particularly concerts for big-name acts. More to the point, while Nick whines about the music industry this holiday season, tens of millions of Americans are still staring down the barrel of foreclosures and evictions while millions more are packing into food banks just to feed their children. Call me crazy, but big-name concerts don’t seem to top the list of society’s priorities.
But even if all restrictions were lifted and concerts were suddenly allowed tomorrow, which bands are playing the Northwestern circuit right now? Why would any band tour when all the other venues around the country are likewise closing down? What exactly does this Tyrant of Tapas expect locals to do? Choke down some shit food at a dingy restaurant so he can stay in business? Elbow our way through an overcrowded bar so we can pay an absurd markup on locally brewed beers to further enrich this Miser of Moonshine? Drop a whole paycheck’s worth of our hard-earned cash on a single concert so Missoula’s smarmy Sultan of Sound can continue his corporate Jihad against the Missoula music scene? (In fairness, that “Sultan of Sound” joke might be a bit of a low blow, alluding as it does to the alleged shady origins of the Checota fortune from the scandalous activities of the Kuwaiti Finance House, but that’s a whole other Kettlehouse of fish.)
After everything this greedy Wisconsin millionaire has done we’re supposed to lend a generous ear and ask our representatives in Congress for an entertainment industry lifeline? That’s literally what Nick asked for on KPAX. This despite the fact that Checota already has more wealth than most of us could spend in a lifetime and it’s somehow never enough for him. He doesn’t care about the local music scene because he single-handedly kneecapped it. Like many big city types, Nick only cares about his precious money.
But Missoula is not a big city, no matter how much Checota and the other developers and their cronies in City Council want it to be. It’s still a small town. And in a small town, one cannot behave like a corporate scumfuck for very long before that reputation starts catching up with them.
And now, after years of unrepentant skullduggery, the shit chickens are finally coming home to roost. Could there be anyone less deserving of our charity and good will this holiday season than Mr. Checota?