On the last Saturday of October last year, Ybor City closed down.
You wouldn’t have believed that if you were one of the estimated 20,000 revelers who clogged Seventh Avenue for Guavaween, the annual bacchanal that takes place on the Saturday night before (and occasionally on) Halloween.
But for all of the bedlam taking place on Seventh, most of those partygoers were content to purchase cans of beer or other alcoholic drinks sold by liquor stores on the street, or pre-purchased and stuffed inside their own backpacks. The street is wet-zoned for Guavaween, meaning open containers are legal inside the boundaries of a fence that surrounds the entertainment district.
But if you were to ask many of the merchants who look forward to making money on Saturday nights, they’d tell you that despite the huge crowds, Guavaween is a loser — not only for their bottom lines, but for the community as a whole.
The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce owns the name of Guavaween and considers the event a prime fundraiser. The merchants’ message to Chamber President Tom Keating is simple: Mr. Keating, tear down that fence!
On March 15 they’re taking that message to a higher power.
Some of Guavaween’s biggest critics — Ybor property and business owners like Alan Kahana, Jack Shiver, Don Barco, and Richard Boom — created the Ybor Merchants Association late last year. Barco, the owner of King Corona Cigars, said they set up the 501(c) 3 because of the feeling there was a “void” in the community to speak up for merchants. The nascent organization is slated to go before Tampa City Council on the 15th to ask that the city no longer grant a permit to the Ybor Chamber for the temporary fence.
David Sunday is the chef and owner of Sunday’s Fine Dining, a restaurant located on the eastern side of Ybor that, due to positive word of mouth, has been doing solid financial business over the past half year. But Sunday says he can’t afford another Guavaween — a night when the crowd gets its drink on outside his establishment and never dares walk inside it.
On a normal Saturday night Sunday says he brings in $3,500. Last Guavaween? About $94, or 97 percent less.
Jerry Dufrain, owner of the Orpheum nightclub next door to Sunday’s, says he made nothing that night. Zero. “By the end of the day I paid my staff, I paid for the cost of opening the business, and I had less than that in my register.” He contends the only people who make any money on this night are parking lot attendants, who can commandeer up to $20 a car in some lots.
John Doble of the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, speaking at a Ybor City Development Corporation board meeting last week, said, “Guavaween is a total disaster. Everyone who has a business here, we lose 75 percent of our normal sales.” He complained that delivery of grains for the beer they brew on site is blocked by Guavaween fencing.
Tom DeGeorge, the owner of the Crowbar nightclub off of 17th Street, flatly calls it a “a real shitty event.”
This has been the mantra of businesses and local residents for several years now. They complain not just about the wet zoning but about the $17 price of admission ($12 if purchased in advance). Coupled with parking costs, the ticket outlay puts patrons in the hole before they even make it to Seventh Avenue, and as a result they have less incentive to spend their precious disposable income.
Two years ago, after a particularly disappointing Guavaween, approximately 60 angry Ybor merchants and residents gathered at the Marti-Maceo club on the far west end of the district to lob complaints. Those complaints were fueled by some business owners’ claims that Ybor Chamber has stiff-armed them regarding their concerns about Guavaween. More recently, David Sunday says that Keating told him he was having “some issues” with Richard Boom, the owner of A Dirty Shame and Sunday’s neighbor down the street on East Seventh, about getting rid of the fence. According to Sunday, Keating said, “If Richard doesn’t like it, we’ll put the fence up right in front of his doors and he won’t do any business.” Sunday said he immediately told Boom about the comment.
When asked about that remark, Keating said there must have been a breakdown in communications. He did recall talking to Sunday about the fence, but denies any ill intention, saying it’s not part of who he is.
As president of the Ybor Chamber, Tom Keating’s raison’d’être is to boost the entire Ybor community. He’s proud of the number of events that the chamber now presents each year with the same seven-member staff he inherited when he took over in 2005. After 16 years of having a production company, C.C. Events, promote Guavaween, the chamber opened up the event to competition last year. But after failing to come to terms with the three companies who bid, the chamber opted to take on the responsibility of producing the event itself, risking its own resources. He said the event made a profit of approximately $26,000.
He is a crackhead. Tell all your friends that Florida is being part run by…
Took almost 20 years to execute Oba Chandler. 10 years for Ted Bundy. 17 years…
Hey Rottenslam, sorry, been busy, will provide some video when I get a breather this…
I have a pickup truck and live less than 2 miles from a recycling center…