New Port Richey City Council members voted to approve the application for a special event alcohol permit for the Cotee River BikeFest 2014 at the meeting on Tuesday. The event was discontinued in 2013 due to a loss of sponsor revenue. The event is hosted by the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce. At the time, Chamber President Chip Wichmanowski was quoted as saying that the event was not a major revenue producer.
This event will be the city’s ninth alcoholic event for 2014, and the Council and City Attorney’s blatant disregard for its own ordinances is inexcusable. Change the ordinance, if you prefer, but let’s not mince words here: the city is breaking its own law. And it’s only September! How many more approvals for alcoholic events will we see before December?
On Tuesday night, the Chamber President and event organizer were on hand to support the Council’s decision on the event. Mr. Wichmanowski said that they would “do the best we could to produce a quality event this year that will represent the city well.”
Parks Director Elaine Smith brought the recommendation from the City’s event planning committee and recommended that the Council approve the event’s special event alcoholic permit. Ms. Smith stated that based on the city attorney’s prior recommendation that the event was hosted by a 501(c)6 (a tax designation for a ‘business league’–the Chamber of Commerce) and it promoted the city, that the event did not fall under the City’s ordinance which limits alcoholic events on city property to eight events per year. In the business, we call this a loophole.
I happen to disagree with this assessment.
Last week, New Port Richey Mayor Rob Marlowe wrote a column on his site, RobMarlowe.com, called “Alcohol in the Park” where he lamented this breach of the ordinance, but on Tuesday night he did not vote against the motion and it passed unanimously.
According to the event’s website, the planned entertainment for the event will include a Bikini Contest, a “Daisy Duke” contest, a “Fire & Iron Poker Run,” and a stunt show. A couple of those feature presentations don’t likely fit the family-friendly billing that one might expect of Sims Park, and I’m not sure it lives up to Mr. Wichmanowski’s promise to “represent the city well.” But hey, what’s one more event to help New Port Richey’s reputation go down the drain? I’m starting to see a pattern in the type of events planned by the West Pasco Chamber, and this one fits the bill. The event will be October 10-12 in Sims Park.
Also at the meeting, West Pasco Historical Society President Bob Langford asked the Council to modify BikeFest’s plan to close Sims Lane because it would block access to their building. When asked by Councilman Starkey if they would modify the plan, Mr. Wichmanowski refused, saying, “This is what we’ve always done.” Another gentleman urged the Council not to approve it because “alcohol and motorcycles don’t mix.” Despite the objections, Council approved the measure anyway.
For the record, my vote would have been a firm “No!” on this measure.
by Jon Tietz