Misunderstanding between car lovers and the city almost put the brakes on a Jacksonville tradition, highlighting frustration over the event permit process ; THE CRUISE IS BACK ON
Jacksonville's own "American Graffiti" is back on again for June 28 with news that the city will not mandate a special event permit for the popular monthly classic car cruise down Main Street.
The Historic Main Street Cruise's organizer had canceled the event and concert after saying city officials told him Wednesday that he would need insurance, security and portable toilets for the gathering of classic cars, hot rods and their fans.
John Wells said the grassroots group couldn't afford the new requirements. But the cruise is back on with the city's help and a few misunderstandings cleared up. So is the cruise's second- anniversary concert at the Krystal at 2023 N. Main St. and the participation of The Great Race, Wells said.
The frustrations, however, have been mounting over the city's permitting process - even derailing some events and leading city administrators to schedule a discussion next week on recent rule changes.
In January the City Council approved changes requested by the city's risk-management office to simplify permitting by the city. But last week Councilwoman Lori Boyer told members of the Rules Committee that people in her Southside district have complained that getting permission to use some city land had gotten harder.
"It seems like we have made it worse rather than better and that certainly was not our intention," Boyer told the committee.
She said merchants at San Marco Square have been trying to book a small July Fourth event at Balis Park but were told that won't be possible because they hadn't booked the event 90 days in advance.
Boyer said the city's rules shouldn't become impediments to using parks that could sit idle otherwise.
"Our system of permitting ... is cumbersome at best. We were trying to go the other direction," she said.
Eric Luman, co-owner at Green Room Brewing in Jacksonville Beach, said Jacksonville's rules helped squash a beer festival the nonprofit Florida Brewers Guild tried to schedule during last month's Jax Beer Week.
The group had planned its event at Friendship Fountain on the Southbank, then learned ongoing replacement of the Southbank Riverwalk would make that unworkable. He said city officials suggested alternate spots downtown and spent an afternoon with him trying to pick a good site - they finally settled on Hemming Plaza - but told him about a week later that the brewers couldn't change their plans because it was within 90 days of the event.
"I never got the feeling they were trying to push us off," he said. "It was more that they were disorganized."
For the Springfield cruise, Wells and sponsors had planned a concert from 5 to 9 p.m.June 28 with Second Shot joined by members of Molly Hatchett and co-founder Dave Hlubek. Wells said he had been working with city officials for months to get a portable stage. During the frustrations of the lengthy process, he said it was misunderstood that he called it off.
Another misunderstanding was the number of projected people. Wells said 2,000 ended up on the application but that may have been what was estimated for the 12-block cruise and people coming to watch the Great Race cars. Five hundred aren't expected just for the band.
Wells credited the mayor's chief of staff for stepping in.
"Give Chris Hand all the credit for having it worked out," Wells said. "And thank the media. Sometimes you don't get listened to unless that happens."
Hand said the confusion has been resolved and no permit is needed now or in the future.
"The question is, does this require a special events permit, and under the code this means 500 people or more," Hand said. "But Wells has certified in writing that it will be less than 500. It is a cherished event and there was some concern. ... We are very glad we could make sure it happened."
Great Race Director Jeff Stumb said whatever happens to the cruise, the cross-country participants will head down Main Street as planned to a 5:30 p.m. celebration at The Jacksonville Landing for its second-to-last day finish.
Springfield Preservation and Revitalization president William Hoff said residents and businesses love having the monthly cruise down Main Street.
"They like to see the activity; they like to see the classic cars and all the people on Main Street, which is normally not that vibrant," he said. "It helps show what Main Street can be again."[email protected], (904) 359- [email protected], (904) 359-4263