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Oktoberfest frets new fees

Officials with popular fundraiser are worried about losing discount they’ve had for years.

March 21, 2008|By Jason Wells

MONTROSE — Organizers of an annual Oktoberfest celebration say a City Council decision to cap discounts to nonprofits for city resources has thrown the event’s future into uncertainty.

Oktoberfest — the Montrose Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce’s largest fundraiser and a popular event in the area — has benefited from a 75% discount for city services since 1981. But under the new policy adopted Tuesday, that discount could drop to 25% unless the city becomes a sponsor.

“It is going to make it extremely difficult,” said Jim Bates, chief executive for the chamber. “I don’t know where all this pans out for us.”

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The Montrose Verdugo City Chamber’s ode to the famous German holiday typically attracts more than 20,000 people to a two-block portion of Honolulu Avenue in Montrose with rides, beer and sausage.

Oktoberfest organizers, according to city reports, have enjoyed the only 75% discount among dozens of event applicants since 2003. The normal discount was 50%.

The new fee structure approved Tuesday completes the city’s special event policy that the City Council adopted in January 2007, which places event permit applicants into one of five categories that, in turn, come attached with various discounts for police officers, city hardware and other resources that range from zero to 100%.

City Council members called for the new policy as a way to bring consistency and structure to a growing number of sponsorships for fairs, festivals and other public events.

Nonprofit organizations and merchant associations that use city resources will now see their discounts drop from 50% to 25%, and the worth of a city co-sponsorship discount dip from 75% to 50%.

The fee schedule took longer to finalize after the City Council in January directed city administrators to seek more feedback from affected nonprofits on the proposed discount reductions.

Of the 130 notices sent out to all past public event organizers, the city received four responses, and of those, just two were regarding potential budgetary impacts, according to city reports.

But the apparent general lack of interest stops with Oktoberfest organizers, who say production costs for the event continue to increase, and losing out on 50% of its discount may make the endeavor infeasible.

“There will be a point where expenses exceed income, and then it will no longer be productive to hold the event,” said Stuart Perlitsh, president of the chamber’s board of directors.

But the City Council can still vote to co-sponsor any event, adding a 50% discount, or to become a full sponsor — a designation that would provide city resources for free, Assistant City Manager Bob McFall said on Tuesday.

Plans for this year’s Oktoberfest on Oct. 4 are currently past the point of no return, organizers said. Once all the necessary city and county permits for this year’s event are pulled, chamber representatives will likely push for a bigger discount, Perlitsh said.


?JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com. ?JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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