The rooms inside Club Arcada on the third floor of the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles are decorated to resemble a 1920s club. (Rafael Guerrero/The Courier-News)
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers has filed lawsuits against 19 bars and restaurants across the U.S., including Club Arcada in St. Charles, alleging copyright infringement.
The lawsuit was a “last resort,” said ASCAP Vice President of Legal Affairs and Business Matters Jackson Wagener, who said it comes after unauthorized public performances of its members’ copyrighted musical works.
The suit, filed Monday against 19 venues including Club Arcada and Ronald Onesti, who owns the operations of the Arcada Theatre where the club is located, argues that ASCAP representatives have made more than 40 attempts to contact the club to offer them a license concerning copyrighted works.
The club is on the third floor of the Arcada Theatre in downtown St. Charles. Wagener said the Arcada Theatre was previously licensed starting in 2012 and the license was terminated in early 2019. Both the club and theater need separate licenses and the club has never obtained one, he said.
“The owners have reached out and we are trying to get this squared away with respect to the theater and club,” Wagener said. “That’s our goal here. We aren’t trying to put people out of business when we file these suits, but we want people to be properly compensated when their music is performed.”
Onesti said he is working on a fast resolution and said he believes the lawsuit is premature.
“We have some paperwork shuffling we have to do,” Onesti said. “I know they have issues with other venues but ours are solid. There is absolutely no reason to think there is anything bad going on.”
Wagener said once a license is obtained, the lawsuit will be dismissed. The settlement would account for getting a license and for the prior period when the club did not have a license, Wagener said.
The non-profit ASCAP represents more than 725,000 independent songwriters and composers. It says its mission is to obtain fair compensation for public performance and to distribute royalties collected based on those performances.
“Basically, it’s guaranteed that on any given night, you are playing at least one of ASCAP’s music because of our wide range,” Wagener said.
The average cost to license bars and restaurants amounts to less than $2 per day for the right to play an unlimited amount of music from ASCAP’s catalog of 11.5 million songs, officials with the organization said. The license cost depends on various factors, such as the size of the venue, frequency that live music is played and if the establishment has a cover charge for admission, Wagener said.
“Creators depend on the royalties they receive to pay the bills, put their kids through school and continue to make the music we all love,” Wagener said.