Frye: Cancelling Oktoberfest could cost Chamber $30K

No Decision On Cancellation At Press Time Wednesday

BLYTHEWOOD – Monday night’s already testy council meeting ended with an announcement by the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce Director Phil Frye that the Chamber’s Oktoberfest, scheduled for this weekend, might be cancelled due to inclement weather, and that – if it is cancelled – the Chamber might not be able to recoup as much as $25,000 to $30,000 that has already been spent on the event.

At one point, Frye stated that he had not come to ask for a bailout; however, Mayor Bryan Franklin offered that, “we might need to think about that though.”

The Town funded the Chamber with $16,000 of the Town’s Hospitality Tax revenue for the event, awarding $12,800 up front and the remaining $3,200 to be awarded after the event.

According to the application, “if the event/project is cancelled, the funds must be returned to the Town of Blythewood.

That may be a problem for the Chamber after coming off of its spring Ribfest with expenses of $87,250.55 with revenue (including $16K from the town) of $84,032.50, the Chamber reported a loss of $3,218.05 for the event.

“People have asked if we have additional insurance?” Frye told council Monday night. “We have special event insurance but it’s very hard to find someone who will underwrite this type of event because most event insurance does not cover an Act of God…and a hurricane is an Act of God.”

Frye continued that the Chamber did not have a backup plan or a rain date, and that rescheduling is out of the question.

“Five of the seven bands set to perform this weekend are already engaged for the remainder of the month of October, and the ladies who do the cow patty bingo are engaged with the State Fair, and also unavailable to reschedule,” Frye said.

“We either have to hold it or not hold it,” he said on Tuesday. At that time, heavy rain and high winds were predicted at times during Friday and Saturday, the days of the event.

“There is no option to reschedule,” Frye told council. He said he had notified venders of the situation.

Fry said that with the high winds predicted, public safety is also a concern with holding the event.

Chamber could lose $30K

“So, your exposure for the Chamber on Oktoberfest currently, where would you put it?” Councilman Rich McKenrick asked Frye.

“We have around $12,000 – $13,000 in advertising, about $4,000 – $5,000 in deposits for the bands, and about $3,000 tied up in mugs, supplies and decorations,” he said. “The total exposure, depending on negotiations, could be $25,000 – $30,000.

“Plus, we have $25,000 from private sponsors for promotion for the event. We’ve printed banners and other materials with that money,” Frye said. “The same goes for the 80 percent of the hospitality tax funds – $12,800 – we received from the town council. We’ve already received that check.” However, Frye said the Chamber has not yet spent that money.

Should Town Bear Loss?

“We’ve had rainstorms before, the rodeo one year, which leads me to my point,” Mayor Bryan Franklin said. “This is the perfect example: governor declares a state of emergency and we hunker down. The Chamber follows those orders so what do we do financially?  Do we reimburse all monies lost and make the Chamber whole?  That’s something we have to decide.

At that point, Town Administrator Carroll Williamson advised that other town-funded events are also scheduled for this weekend and might cancel as well.

“The Blythewood Tournament of Bands [that has been given a check for $8,000 or 80 percent of total council funding] has inquired with the Town, and the King for Day golf tournament (that has been given a check for $10,192 or 80 percent of total Town funding) is also scheduled for this weekend.”

“I did not come up here to get you guys to indemnify us,” Frye told council members.

“I know, but we need to think that through,” Franklin said.

Councilman Sloan Griffin weighed in.

“We need to remember that events in September and October are subject to weather, hurricanes, really anytime from June to second week of November; and we must plan accordingly,” Griffin advised.

At one point, McKenrick, suggested that council might need to take action on the issue of whether to cancel the event.

After some conversation about that, Councilman Donald Brock spoke up.

“It’s not council’s place or responsibility to determine whether or not to cancel the event. That decision would be up to the organizer,” he said.

“I appreciate you coming before us to let us know where you are on this,” Brock said to Frye. 

“I don’t think we need to plant the seeds to get into the insurance business, indemnifying all these events and making them whole,” Brock told The Voice after the meeting. “Mr. Franklin said, himself, during a council meeting a few months ago that council was not in the business of making events whole if something goes wrong. This situation is no different.”

Frye told The Voice that the Chamber will announce on Wednesday, after 5 p.m., its decision about whether or not to hold the event. That will be after The Voice has already gone to press.

Because the town’s video and sound system did not produce a clear audio of the meeting, and was at times not audible at all, and the town’s own backup recorder was not charged, much of the conversation at the end of the meeting during public comments is difficult to discern and accurately transcribe.

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