Open Letter to the Roanoke City Commonwealth's Attorney

Screenshot of Roanoke City Mayor David Bowers April 3, announcing Sheryl Crow as the headliner for the grand opening of the Elmwood Park amphitheater.  I originally published this post on 7/18/14 at 5:11 pm and updated it on 7/19/14 to include the Virginia Code on scalping and a response from the Roanoke City Manager.


The Sheryl Crow concert July 31 to celebrate the grand opening of amphitheater in Elmwood Park  went on sale from The Jefferson Center on April 17 for $15 each with a limit of six tickets per person.

Steve Buschor, of Parks and recreation said,
We're absolutely excited that our citizens will be able to experience Sheryl Crow’s amazing talents in this new state-of-the-art venue right in the heart of downtown Roanoke.
 Tickets sold out in two hours. Since then tickets have appeared on ebay for $115 each from Buchanan, when they cost $15. There are tickets right now on sale there for $57. I'm guessing this person in Georgia meant $200 by "two bills" for his or her auction of two tickets on Craigslist and also there you can find some for $150 and some for $200.

The City of Roanoke spent $75,000 of taxpayers funds and obtained sponsorships from the likes of Downtown Roanoke Inc., the Jefferson Center, Budweiser, WDBJ7, 94.9 Star Country, Q99, K92, the ViBE, and WFIR.

Was all this effort just to support scalpers? If it's not illegal, it should be. How can allowing private speculators to profit be in the public interest?  My understanding is that the Commonwealth of Virginia (unlike other states) leaves the laws regarding scalping up to its localities. Does Roanoke Virginia have a ticket scalping ordinance? If so, what is your office doing to enforce it. If not, why is there no such ordinance?

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.


UPDATE 7/19/14

Well more information from "Joe from Cheese TX"  (as John Dufrense calls him on his blog) who read this entry and sent me a site that enumerated state scalping laws, at least as of 2011.  It turns out that the Virginia law, which I just looked up does allow local ordinances, but exempts internet scalping.  Huh? That seems like a loophole large enough to drive a tour bus through.

§ 15.2-969. Ordinances prohibiting resale of tickets to certain public events; penalty.
Any locality may provide, by ordinance, that it is unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to resell for profit any ticket for admission to any sporting event, theatrical production, lecture, motion picture or any other event open to the public for which tickets are ordinarily sold, except in the case of religious, charitable, or educational organizations where all or a portion of the admission price reverts to the sponsoring group and the resale for profit of such ticket is authorized by the sponsor of the event and the manager or owner of the facility in which the event is being held. Such ordinance may provide that violators thereof are guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. 
This section shall not apply to any resale of a ticket that occurs on the Internet.
(1970, c. 530, § 15.1-29.3; 1982, c. 279; 1995, c. 339; 1997, c. 587; 2009, cc. 321, 376.)
I haven't yet heard back from the Commonwealth's Attorney, but right after I heard from Joe, I heard back from Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill.  I checked with him and he gave me permission to print his response to this letter here

...While the cost for Sheryl Crowe [sic] was $75,000, the actual city contribution to the event should be much less after sponsorships and concession revenue. 
We could have charged more for the tickets but even had we set the price at $50 or $75 scalpers would still be asking for much more because there are only 4,500 seats for a very popular artist. 
We set the price at $15 so locals would at least have an opportunity to purchase tickets at an affordable price. All those who lined up at the Jefferson Center box office received tickets and I know many local folks got up early to purchase tickets on the Jefferson Center website. 
While VA law allows cities to make resale of tickets to public events a Class 3 misdemeanor (see statute below), it prohibits applying the code to internet sales. Since nearly all scalping is done on the internet, this does not really help us.
So, I'll repeat:   If [internet scalping is] not illegal, it should be. How can allowing private speculators to profit be in the public interest? 

Wonder what the chances are of  the General Assembly doing something about this, since the hands of local officials are pretty much tied.