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Here’s The Scoop …. Not Quite The Welcome Wagon ….

January 21, 2010 by Barbara

DON”T FENCE ME IN ….

“TOWN OF LAUDERDALE-BY-THE-SEA
NOTICE OF MEETING
BUSINESSES AND RESTAURANTS – SPECIAL EVENTS AND STREET CLOSURES
Jarvis Hall
4501 Ocean Drive
Thursday, January 21, 2010
6:00 P.M.
A meeting will held on Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:00 PM in Jarvis Hall for business and restaurant owners to publicly discuss weekly recurring special events which close
Town streets, and its effect on adjacent businesses.The meeting is open to the public, the businesses and restaurants in Town, and elected officials.”

……………………………………………

Dear Readers …. The above meeting was held in Jarvis Hall to an packed house of angry and concerned residents…businesses ….In the center of the controversy were 2 businessmen and their attorney who must of felt like they arrived at a lynching…because it certainly wasn’t the LBTS Welcome Wagon!….

At the Jan. 12. 2010 Commission meeting an attorney came forward to address the special events permits for Village Grille’s Jazz on the Square and Athena/101 Ocean’s Elvis on Friday and Saturday nights continuing for another three months… The attorney spoke of her clients and their assertions that the events were harming their business in a reduction of revenue… The Commission, Administration and applicants were all caught off guard by the claims and there was much discussion back and forth …in the end the Commission approved the events for another 3 months and Comm. Dodd asked for a meeting with the businesses concerned  and Town staff….Comm. Silverstone said he would be there as well and Vice Mayor McIntee said it needed to be posted …The Manger said she would send notices and there would be a meeting…Nobody expected it so fast…and caught off guard were not only the businesses in town but the attorney for the affected businesses and the affected businesses themselves…

The notice was first seen by this writer in Town Hall on Jan. 14th taped to the front counter …and posted.. It was sent to the businesses and then a second copy was distributed with businesses signing for it…Word spread quickly and fliers were sent out, posted downtown and on this site….thus producing the filled to capacity, non-televised meeting last night….

I arrived around 25 minutes early to a locked Jarvis Hall and slowly the driveway began to fill up as we awaited the door to be opened….The attorney arrived and told this writer that she received a voice mail on Tuesday and was not only surprised of this taking place so fast, but concerned because she had a conflicting meeting in Fort Lauderdale…She was in the process of getting the figures asked for at the commission meeting to show a revenue loss impacted by the special events …and she and her clients were expecting to meet with staff and the applicants to iron things out…not this… I said “Welcome to Lauderdale- By- The- Sea!”…. As the room filled up…she and her clients looked as if they were being fed to the lions…I have never seen the such a setting …a room full of tables…with a head table  comprised of Asst. Town Manger Olinzock, Deputy Town Clerk Nikki Smith and Town Manager Colon…Commissioner Dodd, Commissioner Silverstone, Commissioner Clottey, Mayor Minnet, Candidate Chris Vincent, Candidate Joe Couriel, and Candidate Marjorie Evans were in the hall…(Candidate Sasser was away on business)…. There was a sign -up sheet …and the attorney signed in first and then signed in her two clients…who I later found out said they were informed this afternoon of the meeting taking place…The attorney, Courtney Crush went to the podium after Dep. Town Clerk Nikki Smith introduced Asst. TM Olinzock who explained that the commission asked for a public meeting at the previous commission meeting and that the comments from the meeting would be used at the Jan. 26, 2010 commission meeting ….Ms. Crush spoke and said she did not expect this public meeting and reiterated what she had told me prior, that she thought she and her clients would sit down and work with staff…and that she instructed her clients to get the information …in order to get some helpful consensus without this…There seemed to be a problem with 13 spaces , the impact, a noon set-up time and the code required fencing keeping patrons from going into Pacific Blues and U.S. Vintage …. Asst. Olinzock stood to speak about the permit process for a special event and how it required a majority of the commission to approve it ….The Manager from one of the shops stood to speak and said he felt this was not a special event  for the Town but an event that only benefited the restaurant  (Athena) …He contended he had a loss of 60% of the register on these nights and again mentioned the fencing off of the median as a deterrent… The attorney  approached the podium to speak again and Asst. Olinzock tried to stop her…She explained that she wanted to apologize to the attendees for her short stay, due to being unaware of the meeting an her prior commitment…Next up was this writer who spoke that I had never seen such a meeting, with such a set-up, in such  a short time…and I was sorry it was taking place…that something needed to be worked out and this should not have taken place….

Mark Brown a resident and Editor of the By The Sea Future newspaper spoke next…and summed it up so well….

“I don’t understand why you are holding this special meeting this evening. The commission had asked the businesses involved in this complaint to submit some data to document their losses. Has this data been received? Does it justify a special commission meeting? There are over 100 businesses in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. They are all hurting in this economy. Are you going to hold a special meeting for every other business in town if they decide to file a complaint?

Why is this town commission so anti-business? Every other governmental body in the county and the country is bending over backwards to try to work with their business community during these difficult economic times. Remember. It’s the businesses which take the risk, not the government. It’s the businesses which provide the jobs in this town, not the government. It’s the businesses which generate the tax revenues in this town, not the government. All the government does is spend money, not make it.

If you follow through on your plans to shut down the music, and drive the local restaurants and bars out of business, where are the jobs going to come from? Where are the tax revenues going to come from? If you decimate the business community, and destroy our reputation as an international tourist destination, what is going to bring visitors into town? Don’t you even think about the consequences of what you do up there? Don’t you realize that if you lose tax revenues from the business community, you will have to make them up by raising taxes on individuals in order to sustain the operations of the town government. I don’t want my taxes going up, and I doubt that anyone else in town does either, just because a few people have a personal vendetta against some of the businesses in town, and because they are willing to go to any length to destroy them.

I like living in a community which is mixed use residential and business. I like being able to go downtown and spend my money to support our local businesses, not someone else’s. I like being able to stay in town for entertainment, rather than go somewhere else. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. If the commission can’t find something productive to do for the town, don’t do anything at all. Thank you.”

After that there were many more who spoke in support of the restaurants…the music and the events…and how they bring so much to the Town …A gentleman spoke of being a customer of both the stores in question and the restaurants in question and appreciating them both…The next gentleman stood and said he was a Canadian and received a round of applause …he said the issue was not the music, it was the parking…Dave Gadsby spoke of the 98% positive feedback he has received over the last 6 years and this can be a win-win situation for everybody…Bob Schuyler said he didn’t “want to take sides but if you take away the music you might as well roll up the sidewalks” …and stated there was plenty of parking 100 feet away from the business offering some solutions to offset the cost including chipping in himself!…  Candidate Joe Couriel showed us again why he would be the wrong choice as Mayor in March….. He said he “didn’t know how this had deteriorated into the music “…that “somebody complaining about not going to shop”…and began to do some  full-blown politicking…with his “vision” for “outdoor tables where the parking is”…and “leasing it from the Town”…and “having it on Fridays, Saturday and Sundays”……He went on to say “everybody loves the music, nobody’s anti-music”…”closing the street is affecting one store”…He thought there would be a “round table and this was not what the commission asked for”… …Hmmm…..Asst. Olinzock stepped to the podium to say it was done this way in order to accommodate the need to post for the Commissioners….Aruba Manager Guy Contrada spoke to the businessmen in question and said “nobody  wants to hurt your business”…offering up some ideas of coupons and ways to offer assistance…Chuck Gress said this town was acting like it is stuck in the 1950s when it is 2010 and spoke of the need to stay alive and adjust to competitors…A gentleman came forward to say it was “no reasonable rationalization” in the assertion that “13 parking spaces eliminated” impacted more than 500 people walking…As he spoke the business manager spoke up and Town Manager Colon walked over to him to ask that he hold his comments as he had his turn…The speaker felt he was being interrupted by the Manager and told her so ….The crowd in the back misunderstood her actions and became quite loud …This writer tried to tell them she was trying to avert any further interruptions…but to no avail…All were on edge due to this meeting talking place…The Manager walked to the podium which further angered the speaker and a BSO Deputy came up to stand alongside as the speaker finished…TM Colon spoke and said she wanted to clarify what that she asked the manager to please not interrupt…She said this was a “hearing”…that this is a “Town Manager form of government”…and “if this happened again there would be a warning and then you will be asked to leave the meeting”…(What does a Town Manager form of government have to do with it?… WOW!…)…The gentleman who was angered was followed by his wife…she said she saw no “downside” to closing the streets on Friday and Saturday…that there is parking available…we’re a quaint seaside village…The next woman spoke also to keep the streets open and leave it the way it is…Her husband said “don’t screw it up”…The next gentleman said he loves the music “Let”s keep the music!”…(The 2 businessmen who hired the attorney just kept saying to each other and to me…”We do not want to get rid of the music!’….A new resident said he chose LBTS to live in because of the Friday and Saturday events and the town “would be dead without it”…Frank Herrman came to add his written out comedy material…and show his support of Elvis  and both nights of music…The owner of Kilwins also spoke of what the events bring to the businesses and offered up that the businesses in question “may need to make some business plan adjustments”…adding he was happy the people who come “Thank God, they eat ice cream!”… Louis Marchelos informed the attorney the road was closed at 4 pm not noon and spoke of Athena emulating the Village Grille in creating their Saturday night event…and said the parking used by both is approximately the same number…Louis told the businessmen if they had a problem they should have come to them…Athena would have offered coupons, some P.R. at breaks in the music to assist their stores …and informed the Sat. night event was an Athena and 101 Ocean event……and spoke of the costs were incurred by them to benefit the Town…Diane Boutin spoke of apples and oranges…valid concerns….a history of how we came to start the Jazz on the Square to encourage business and to make “sangria” …Cindy Geesey said she wished they had come forth before going to an attorney and having the attorney come to the meeting…She spoke of all Aruba. Village Grille and Athena do to donate back to the Town events while the complaining business does nothing…She offered up an idea to promote some of their cute outfits… Bill Vitola said this shows everybody wants music …and he spoke of Oakland Park closing down streets  for the music…He said we should try something for a couple of weeks to see if it will make a difference …like the fencing…and if it doesn’t try something else…The businesses need help…..The wife of a Village Grille employee came to say she brings people here to hear the music and parks sometimes near and sometimes far…A hostess fro Village Grille came to say when she gets to work a 4 pm the phone never stops ringing for music info on Friday an Saturday night!…Paul Novak spoke and said he was wearing “2 hats”…as President of the Chamber of Commerce who voted  for music… and as a hotelier, with property closest to the events and said his guest “love it!”….He said the problem  was not the music, it was the parking and revealed he was also the landlord for one of the businesses that hired the attorney…U.S. Vintage…He went on to speak as a landlord and tough times for landlords…lowering the rents ..He spoke of a cross walk trial basis …valet parking to be addressed again…and a committee to work things out…He said T-shirt shops work in this town…and there will be no Las Olas  type shops coming into town as long as we maintain our parking requirements (see MPSC under the board category…when Paul covered his take on repealing the requirements)… He spoke of mayoral candidate Joe Couriel’s restaurant idea…saying without a change in the parking rules it will never happen!…(Couriel’s running mate Comm. Jim Silverstone is against it)… The last gentleman that spoke said he knew what Dave from Village Grill and Athena must have lowered revenues as well as the affected businesses in question and said he took a poll for the music on Friday night…132 yes…ZERO no!…

Asst. John Olinzock thanked the audience for coming and listening… and with that it was over…

The men who came were now without their attorney and they pleaded to make those around them understand they did not want to stop the music…They just want to get rid of the orange fencing and allow the people to walk from the dining and dancing to their stores!… Business owners walked up to them and offered their assistance…and the crowd moved outdoor where the conversations continued and the consensus was clear…While the meeting itself was uncalled for…The call was loud and clear from the people……. In LBTS …..Special events with music are here to stay on Friday and Saturday nights!…

Now, it’s time for the Commission and the Administration to stop making the businesses who provide us with these events jump through hoops every 3 months …. To return to annual special event permits…and give the south side businesses a few crosswalks in the median….

LBTS Code Enforcement…Take down that orange fence!….

more to come…

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