(21) comments Back to story

Allen Flores

There’s no dispute about events being good for Galveston. The dispute is about using the family historic district for disorderly drinking-events. It’s also about the legality of charging taxpayers to enter public streets. It’s about the city paying Yaga’s expenses with public funds for nine years.

Yaga’s paid the city just $15,000 in 2011, while the city paid $408,000 and lost $393,000. The city spent $405,000 in 2019 and lost $256,000 paying for Yaga’s drinking-party. The historic business district gets trashed every year by Mardi Gras and The Rally. You can’t lump these disorderly and unsafe crowds in with family events that don't waste public funds. They know neither drinking-event belongs on The Strand.

Mike Dean

In 2009-2010 when Mr Flores ran Mardi Gras he paid the city $0 in 2009 and $10,000 in 2010. The city paid the same $405,000 each year to cover Mr Flores execution of the event. Now he contends that something that is wrong...also Yaga's won an RFP in 2010 defeating Mr Flores. In Mr Flores proposal he included plans for a paid gate...I guess it makes a difference who is in charge on what he thinks is right or wrong.

Allen Flores

That's untrue. There was no sealed bid, it says so in the Yaga's contract. The mayor asked me to pay for bands five months after Hurricane Ike. I never charged taxpayers to access public streets as a money grab hurting neighboring businesses. A family of five should not be forced to pay Yaga's $110 just to go eat and shop local. Yaga's should simply relocate their drinking-parties and pay their own expenses without public funds. Mardi Gras is affordable and safer without any promoter on The Strand. No promoter should charge taxpayers or tourists to access public streets, that includes me.

Don Schlessinger

Interesting, I found the word residents three times in this article. So we know who the city and business give a "bleep" about and who they don't. The idea of residents contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to these parties and getting nothing in return is okay.

Michael Byrd

Experience Galveston sounds like just another echo chamber with the same cast of characters that believe the same thing. Big events are good for Galveston and therefore what ever is done in the name of those events is good for Galveston also.

Don Schlessinger

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Allen Flores

I'm not sure who Experience Galveston is, but I agree that festivals are good for Galveston. I just don't agree with drinking-parties blocking my businesses and our customers. By the way, I have no beef with Yaga's, Mike Dean or The Lone Star rally owners. My dispute is with the city contract that includes Yaga's. In my opinion, the performance of the contract is illegal for violating the rights of property owners, business and taxpayers. I challenge Yaga's and the rally to simply relocate their event away from the historic district and cruise ships. I challenge the city to start using Hotel Taxes for hotels, not drinking-parties.

Wayne Holt

I believe this story suggests both positive progress on rethinking big events in Galveston as well as offering the same tired bromides about tourist dollars.

1) It is interesting that we have come far enough that those who support big events feel the need to form a group to promote it. This shows that the inevitability of continuing as we have is no longer assured, and that is good to know. On the other hand, the idea that business and especially tourist business in Galveston needs to be protected will be a shock to many residents who feel it is the neighborhoods that need more consideration, not business.

2) The mantra "Tourism is vital to Galveston" in no way considers how that tourism is promoted, who benefits from it and at what cost. Our Convention & Visitors Bureau folks rightly understand the need now is to upsell Galveston as a way to bring in more revenue. The citing of sheer numbers of people flooding the island is in no way indicative of the value that adds to our economy. When you leave mountains of trash and very irritated businesses and residents, that should not be thought of as valuable tourism but rather an annoyance to be addressed.

3) There is no reason why local businesses have to be penalized by being denied access to their customer base, why residents have to pay to use their own streets and why a caravan of tented itinerant merchants have be given the advantage over businesses here year 'round. Figure out a way to let all businesses downtown benefit from these events and you will be halfway to a solution. Mr. Aldis is right: first right of refusal to every local business for the spot in front of their location. Wow...radical idea, I know.

4) City leadership over the years is directly responsible for a lot of the problems that have grown year by year. The attitude seems to be if ordinances are enforced and orderly behavior demanded, people will no longer come. Actually, you will only lose the problem attendees. When is the City going to start enforcing zero tolerance on the dangerous and idiotic behavior seen during events, just like it does on residents the rest of the year? Just as we have magistrates awaiting arrestees during drunk driving campaigns, let GPD do their job and start pulling in the troublemakers immediately and post a bond to get out; that will get the attention of both the losers and the good folks to our benefit.

5) “I think we know most of the complaints from most of the events,” Yarbrough said. The reason you are seeing organized resistance to the present situation is because, while knowing about the complaints, there doesn't seem to be an impetus to DO anything about it.

It is past time to address these issues in a way that is truly inclusive of ALL perspectives. There are more and more residents downtown who want action on these problems and more businesses who are questioning the wisdom, and even legal legitimacy, of what is being currently offered. We can work together on a solution but it needs to start with a fresh look at it, not tweaking around the edges and a pat on the head for those directly affected.

Bailey Jones

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Allen Flores

The Seawall version of Mardi Gras is hiding in plain sight of the city. There are no promoters, concerts, beer booths or riots on Seawall. At a minimum, drinking-events should be moved away from downtown residents, businesses and cruise ships. If the city insists on keeping drinking events, they should consider East Seawall and East Beach. The city manager has failed to suggest a better plan for Mardi Gras that doesn’t include a promoter. It only takes four prudent council members to stand up and restore safety and quality tourism on The Strand without promoters. It’s unfortunate that zero progress has been made to move drinking parties away from downtown.

Susan Zapalac

When my children were younger, we went to Mardi Gras when it was free and when there was a charge to enter. I prefer to pay to enter. When the event was free, I was not comfortable with some of the people who entered. I did not feel safe. My family and I still attend Mardi Gras every year, and we are glad to pay. We rent a house, we pay to attend the activities on the Strand, and we spend money at the restaurants and shops. My only complaint now is some of the people along the parade route down 25th Street. The language used by some of the people is not appropriate for children. We just kept moving further down 25th Street to get away from them. This was along the free section of the parade, not in the Strand district. If the event were free, we would not attend.

Allen Flores

Here is an excerpt from a city document describing Mardi Gras on The Strand: "Characterized by pushing, shoving, frequent fighting, and large numbers of intoxicated subjects." The city's internal records show that Mardi Gras downtown is "a risk to public safety." The city's internal records prove downtown's Mardi Gras to be unsafe and against the public policy protecting residents and tourists. The facts regarding safety contradict the public statements made by the city and promoter.

Bailey Jones

Mardi Gras is essentially a pre-Lenten bacchanal - I'm not sure I would expect it to be appropriate for children.

Kristen Stephens

If you are saying that charging admission keeps undesirable people out, I strongly disagree. I work on The Strand and it has become dangerous and unsafe during Mardi Gras and the motorcycle event. If anything, the admission fee keeps families out according to my regular customers. That’s why they go to the Seawall. It’s ridiculous that the city keeps doing this to us.

Jake Swanson

Paying for entry into Mardi Gras doesn’t eliminate but does drastically reduce the amount of “trash” that comes to the event in the downtown area. If it were free like it used to be, it’d turn into an all out riot every single night which would kill our image entirely. Paying a “cover charge”, for the most part, keeps out those would come just to be a menace and contribute nothing to downtown businesses. I agree it’s sucks for the well behaved patrons but some sort of vetting to weed out the troublemakers needs to be in order and so far it’s the best thing we got. Last I checked this practice is well in hand at Bliss every time I walk by so to argue otherwise is hypocritical Allen. You know that those who pay cover will pay for drinks bc there’s a value associated with their admission - same with Mardi Gras. My only unsolicited advice is to keep it free for those with Galveston, TX on their drivers license/ID and their kids. It’s not the best system but like I said it’s the only one we got for now...and the argument about your customers not coming in - I’m a weekly regular at Shark Shack (I love the coconut shrimp), and it’s always packed during events so I don’t know what the big fuss is about.

Allen Flores

I’m questioning the legality and common sense of transforming public streets into a nightclub for thugs. I suggest East Beach for paid concerts. A contract to create an outdoor nightclub has nothing to do with Mardi Gras. Revamping Mardi Gras into parades-only makes more sense than an outdoor nightclub for disorderly crowds.

Eliminating the outdoor concerts, raves and fencing is reasonable and logical. It’s what attracts the bad crowds and keeps them loitering in the streets. It’s been proven that fees don’t keep thugs out. There have been two riots and frequent fights. Drinking-events with outdoor inducements to loiter should be eliminated from downtown.

CJ Kirwer

Quote-“The group, Experience Galveston, is meant to offer a counterbalance to an emerging complaint among some retailers, restaurants and residents who are challenging a long-held position that festivals luring many thousands of tourists over weekends are good for Galveston’s economy.”

No.

“Experience Galveston”?

Website? Have they offered any platform other than themselves to speak on this issue? Are they reaching out for any consensus?Sounds like the “good ole boy” network is in full swing.

Please hear me out - as a resident of Downtown Galveston I support festivals downtown. Lone Star Rally, Dickens are fantastic.

My issue is somehow Mardi Gras got morphed into a 3 stage outdoor music venue with 30 something acts. Since there is no outdoor music venue downtown the city and promoter fence in downtown to charge admission to cover those costs with little regard to the rights of other property owners.

Sure, Dickens puts up a fence but it’s for a charitable cause that benefits us all. I’m good with that.

But being a resident of downtown could somebody explain to me how my right of access to my home can be usurped for the profit of a private promotion company? Sure I get “complimentary tickets” and by accepting those tickets I’m forced to forfeit certain rights of access to my property. Can I have guests to my home? Sure, if they buy a ticket. Can I wander through the gate with my groceries? Nope.

How is that legal? I thought I lived in Texas.

Wayne Holt

Mayoral and council candidates in upcoming elections should take note: It's time to take a position on these events, publicly stated without equivocation, and then deliver on it. Are you in favor of Lone Star Rally with what we now know of criminal gangs, drugs, outrageous behavior both on and off motorcycles? OK, state that and why you won't be working to change the situation. Is the Mardi Gras music marathon just what we need downtown? Have the moral courage to stand for SOMETHING and be prepared to defend your position.

The time for trying to "stealth support" events that need major overhauls in how they are conducted should be over. I will be very vocal in asking anyone who wants my vote, "Where do you stand on downtown large events?"

As Mr. Flores points out, this is not a death sentence to Galveston tourism, it is simply recognizing the present situation is no longer supported by significant numbers of taxpayingnresidents and business owners who are affected by them and we need changes made.

Mayor and Council: get serious about this issue. It can be fixed, but not until it is acknowledged.

Allen Flores

Here is a common sense plan: (1.) Mardi Gras consists of parades-only. There would be no outdoor concerts, vendors and promoters near residents. If the city insists on vendors, existing businesses can set-up adjacent to their property with permits. Businesses would pay the city directly to help offset police and cleaning costs. (2.) All sponsors would pay the city directly to help offset police and cleaning costs. No advertising banners are allowed on historic buildings and all ordinances apply as usual. (3.) All balcony bead-tossing areas must pay the city for permits and provide police security and insurance at their own costs. (4.) The hours of parades, bead-tossing, and outdoor bands/vendors (if any) should end at 8pm. Saengerfest Park and parking lots must adhere to the plan as a matter of public safety. (5.) The park board would handle the advertising message and minimize the advertising to eliminate overcrowding. Their advertising will promote Galveston’s zero tolerance and new direction away from drinking parties to discourage disorderly crowds from coming to the downtown. The “awareness campaign” is a must. (6.) If promoters want to charge admissions, provide bands or sell vendor spaces for their drinking-events, direct them to Boddeker Drive and East Beach. Any designated areas for any drinking-parties should be placed three miles away from The Strand Historic District, cruise terminals, residents and businesses. This proposed safety plan addresses the obvious. This common sense plan eliminates the reasons why disorderly crowds go downtown at all.

Wayne Holt

Sounds like a great place to start the discussion, if City officials are willing to step up and do that. This issue isn't going away; let's sit down and start fixing it.

CJ Kirwer

Just to be clear I have no problem with Downtown festivals until somebody has the gall to try to stomp on my property rights.

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