Miami-Dade County

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against Ultra, gives Rapture one chance to try again

Ultra Music Festival 2018 - Day 2

Scenes from the second day at the Ultra Music Festival Saturday, March 24, 2018, at Bayfront Park in Miami.
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Scenes from the second day at the Ultra Music Festival Saturday, March 24, 2018, at Bayfront Park in Miami.

Three days after Rapture Electronic Music Festival sued Ultra Music Festival in U.S. District Court, a federal judge tossed the suit and told Rapture it has one chance to try again.

Rapture, an electronic music festival that has been held in Virginia Key Beach Park for the last two years, sued the much larger Ultra alleging the electronic dance music event violated anti-trust laws by conspiring with the city of Miami when city commissioners approved a licensing agreement to allow Ultra to move to the key. The city of Miami and one of its semi-autonomous agencies, the Virginia Beach Park Trust, were named also as defendants.

A gathering that attracts far fewer people than Ultra, Rapture contends it was promised it could hold its event in the park, which is scheduled for the same weekend in March as Ultra.

Judge Ursula Ungaro dismissed Rapture’s suit on Monday in a blunt, two-page order stating the complaint does not establish why Rapture has legal standing to sue and failed to give a factual basis for allegations that Ultra and the city of Miami broke the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Ultra_DayTwo_MJO_18 (2)
From left, Kiara Daniela Benac, 21, and Ale Ruttimann, 21, both from Miami, dance and wave flags from Brazil and Peru during the second day of Ultra Music Festival in downtown Miami on Saturday, March 25, 2017. MATIAS J. OCNER For the Miami Herald

Ungaro wrote that Rapture’s argument is based on nearly two dozen allegations provided with no factual backing, and that the “case seems to hinge almost entirely on the following allegation: ‘[t]he ridiculousness of allowing Ultra music festival in such an environmentally friendly location is absurd and a clear signal of an antitrust violation,’” quoting the lawsuit.

“That allegation isn’t a ‘clear signal’ of anything,” Ungaro wrote in her order, “and so the Court must dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, but will grant leave to amend.”

Rapture’s attorney, Paul K. Silverberg, has until Feb. 13 to submit an amended lawsuit.

“It is a procedural issue that will be corrected,” Silverberg told the Miami Herald on Monday.

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Stephanie Severino, spokeswoman for the city of Miami, said neither Ultra nor Rapture has applied for permits to stage a music festival on Virginia Key, but Ultra has the exclusive right to apply for those permits under the revocable licensing agreement approved by commissioners in November. Ultra organizers plan to stage the festival in two separate venues connected by fenced-in walkways: the beachside park and the lots outside Miami Marine Stadium. Rapture does not have a licensing agreement.

“They need those permits,” Severino said, adding that Ultra would also be required to obtain any necessary permits from county environmental regulators. Public records from the county Division of Environmental Resources Management show Ultra is in the process of getting permits for a temporary dock for water taxis that will shuttle concertgoers to and from the Miami Marine Stadium site.

Both festivals continue to sell tickets for events scheduled on the weekend of March 29-31.

Read the judge’s order below:

Joey Flechas covers government and public affairs in the city of Miami for the Herald, ranging from votes at City Hall to neighborhood news. He won a Sunshine State award for revealing a Miami Beach political candidate’s ties to an illegal campaign donation. He attended the University of Florida.