Many have asked why we oppose Mardi Gras. There’s no truth to Shark Shack ownership wanting Mardi Gras canceled or parades stopped from passing in front of our businesses.
The city sent misinformation to media outlets, purposely causing public fear and animosity toward us for exposing their unlawful contract. The city never sought the highest bidder, and the krewes deserve credit for parades — not the promoter.
City records revealed the city pays all city services for the promoter. City costs are not offset, they’re increased by the promoter. The promoter increases city costs by six times over seawall costs where there’s no promoter.
It’s nonsense to claim that the lawsuit was filed for personal reasons. There are 30 other businesses who signed a petition opposing being fenced in and having vendors placed in front of them. Being held hostage to an illegal contract for 10 years is a business conflict, not a personal conflict.
Texas Tax Code 351.101(b) prohibits city spending of $348,000 in hotel taxes to pay the expenses of a well-connected promoter. It’s illegal for a promoter to deny a family of five access to local businesses unless they pay them $110 during Mardi Gras. According to Texas Transportation Code 316.021, the promoter cannot interfere with public access, charge a fee or create the unsafe conditions that occur every Mardi Gras.
According to Business and Commerce Code 15.05 a, b and c, the city cannot issue a contract that restrains free trade or creates a monopoly for one private business. Texas Constitution, Article 11, Sec. 5, states a city ordinance cannot override state laws. The Texas Constitution sections 17 and 26 disallow a private business from controlling city streets or other businesses without their written consent.
City leaders have argued the promoter takes on big risks to help the city pay for Mardi Gras. That’s more misinformation. The city gave the promoter $87,000 in sponsor dollars in 2019 to pay their $100,000 obligation; therefore, the promoter only paid $13,000. The promoter admitted to making over $1 million from fees in 2019 while the city lost $250,000 and negotiated just $1 out of the $22 fee. These facts reveal that there’s no risk. The promoter paid the city only $15,000 in 2011 and only $40,000 in 2012. The promoter made enough in the first two years of the contract to eliminate all future financial risks.
It’s also not true the fate of small festivals is at risk; there are many legal ways to continue family festivals for nonprofits. Claiming that a $22 fee is a safety feature for the dangerous conditions that the promoter creates is a clever distortion of the truth. It’s a money grab on the backs of taxpayers. What other city manager would allow this?
Spending hotel tax in 2020 would be a blatant misappropriation. Fencing in 60,000 intoxicated people is an expensive and unsafe business model. Efforts to rethink a quality and legal Mardi Gras is in no way an effort to cancel Mardi Gras.