THE Pantiles jazz season in Tunbridge Wells, which was axed following concern about crime and safety as attendance swelled to 3,000, will be run this year by a professional events company.
Targetfollow which owns the Upper Walk, pulled the plug last August on the free weekly jazz nights after complaints of underage drinking, crime and licensing concerns.
This year it has teamed up with the other Pantiles landlord, Lower Pantiles LLP, to hire a company to run the jazz on the bandstand every Thursday through June, July and August.
But each evening will cost about £4,000 to keep it in line with licence requirements, so the public are being called upon to give a minimum £2 donation to attend.
Richard Simm, owner of the Ragged Trousers, one of the event's former sponsors, said pubs and restaurants in the Pantiles had subsidised the season.
But the projected rise in costs – four times what it had been previously – had forced a rethink of the funding.
Mr Simm said: "We are considering all possibilities as to how to fund the event and save it. It's great for the Pantiles' reputation as well as the evening's trade and to lose the event would be a blow to both. Business wise we do have a great night when jazz is on but current contribution is really at the level of what is affordable. Last year we lost money with the early closure."
He said music lovers had a role to play in keeping the event alive.
"We want to keep the event open. We don't want to gate the area off although we have looked at that. But we would like people to pay a minimum donation of £2. It would be really appreciated if they did. If people like jazz, this is the way to go," he said.
A Targetfollow spokesman said: "The new measures are important not only to be compliant with the licensing requirements but also to continue improving the jazz season in terms of its quality, profile and sustainability. Together with the Lower Pantiles LLP, we are putting in place a professional management structure to enhance and preserve an important local event in the hope that it can continue to support itself through ongoing sponsorship and contributions from the people of Tunbridge Wells who come to enjoy these excellent evenings of entertainment."