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No permit, no debt repayment plan yet, but the clock is ticking

By Kristin Kjaero

June 9, 2015 (La Mesa) – Although the City Council sent them back to the drawing board with a requirement that means they must come up with a repayment plan for $37,229 they owe the City before any new special event applications from them will be processed, the La Mesa Village Merchants Association yesterday evening sent e-mails to all 2014 Oktoberfest vendors soliciting applications and payments for booth rentals for a 2015 Oktoberfest.

The e-mail states, “Even though it was very hot during the day, the event was a great success. We hope that you feel the same way and will consider joining us again this year.”

The Merchants group owes the City $33,996 for Police, Fire and other support services provided for the 2014 Oktoberfest, and said at the last City Council meeting that they’d spent the revenue from it on Christmas in the Village instead of paying back the City’s General Fund.

The e-mail gives the vendors a date, time, fees for booth rental (ranging from $500 for crafters up to $2,100 for food vendors plus $100 cleaning deposit), and where to send their checks, but does not mention the debt issue or problems with their previous application which triggered a City Council policy change regarding special event applications and permits.

La Mesa Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary England, who has run the large beer garden at past Oktoberfests remarked, "At the City Council meeting where Oktoberfest was discussed neither permit nor a repayment plan to accompany it has been submitted or approved, so I'm amazed that applications would go out stating date, time, place and hours of the 2015 Oktoberfest.”

The Merchant’s Association e-mail states that they will be running the event by themselves this year including the large beer garden previously run by the Chamber, despite a disagreement that must be worked out between two organizations regarding the interpretation of a clause in a Memorandum of Understanding still in effect that states, “the La Mesa Chamber shall have the exclusive first right of refusal to manage and operate the Allison Street beer garden for the 2015 La Mesa Oktoberfest.”

City Manager Dave Witt confirmed the Merchants Association has not submitted a new application per the City Council's instructions. “They have not provided me with a plan for repayment of the outstanding debt yet,” Witt stated, but said there is a meeting scheduled for next week between the City and Merchants Association to discuss it.

“It is a challenging situation with the clock ticking for sure, but we’re in talks with them, and those two items have to be resolved,” Witt said.

Event Coordinator and Merchants Association Executive Director John Vigil explained, “This could be a bust. I may be doing this for nothing. The City may not agree. But it takes time so I’m still walking forward. We will file [an application] again next week if the City Manager and [Merchants Association] Board are able to come to terms.“

“We’re not cashing anybody’s check until we do have permission or a permit. It’s a very time consuming thing when you’re looking over 200 vendors,” Vigil clarified.

Vigil described the laborious and time consuming process that goes into planning an event which brings 100,000 people to our city, starting with building an electrical map as well as the overall event plan.

In addition to Vigil, paid staff for Oktoberfest will include an Event Manager, an Event Assistant Manager and a Communications Officer. They must also pay the city cost recovery for police, fire and other staff support, as well as provide their own additional security for the beer garden and overnight security.

Personnel also includes an Assistant Administrator, two Service Specialists (who circulate at the event with a repair trolley and water for volunteers), a Bartender Manager (who brings in a bartending team that works for tip money), a Volunteer Coordinator, a Medical Event Person, an Entertainment Manager and a Burgermeister who acts as the MC and conducts games and contests in the beer garden. 

Vigil stated that it’s hard to find volunteers since event set up has started on Thursday and Friday, so most of these positions will receive some sort of stipend that are currently being negotiating.

“The LMVMA needs to present a plan for Oktoberfest that pays their 2014 debt and makes fiscal sense for 2015. The clock is ticking and the pressure is on. I hope they can deliver,” said Councilmember Bill Baber.



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