Two events with similar names were at the center of a controversy at the Lake Saint Louis board of aldermen meeting Monday night.
The first, Oktoberfest, is a fundraiser for the Lake Saint Louis Ambassadors, a Community Association organization that is dedicated to promoting and improving the city. Last year's one-day festival was so successful, the organizers made it a two-day event for 2012 and moved it from its original home at The Meadows to the Lowe's parking lot at the Shoppes of Hawk Ridge.
Oktoberfest will be held Oct. 6 and 7.
The second, Rocktoberfest, is the brainchild of Greg Jones, who has spearheaded many charity events for Lake Saint Louis and the Lake Saint Louis Pleasure Boating Club. Jones is working with two foundations that raise money for emergency responders and their families to put on a "Tunnel to Towers" 5K run at The Meadows.
Jones told the board that he had originally planned the event for 2013, but when he heard that the foundation wanted to hold their 5K runs in 343 venues this year (for the 343 emergency responders who were killed in the 9-11 tragedy), he put his plans in high gear for a 2012 event. The 5K run at the Meadows would be followed by "Rocktoberfest," with live music and, potentially, a beer garden.
That event is also planned for Oct. 6.
Karen Little, president of the Ambassadors, spoke to the board during the public comment session. She said that planning for Oktoberfest had taken "countless hours of effort and meticulous planning" and that the Ambassadors had been working on the event since last October.
Little said that the Rocktoberfest, with "an extremely similar-sounding name," also scheduled for Oct. 6, would be in competition with Oktoberfest.
Little questioned whether The Meadows and the cooperating organizations had received all the necessary permits, and asked the board to table the "11th-hour" Rocktoberfest permit.
City Administrator Paul Markworth explained that the board had put the special permit process in the hands of city staff, with the exception of events involving liquor sales, which would need board approval. Markworth said that the event permit had been granted, except for the liquor permit which was part of the consent agenda.
Mayor Mike Potter spoke out in favor of the Rocktoberfest event. "Personally, I think this is going to help Oktoberfest," he said, noting that the Rocktoberfest beer garden would not be open until 7 p.m., after Oktoberfest wrapped up at 6 p.m.
"How’s it going to hurt you?" he asked Little.
"I think there’s a confusion factor," Little said.
The board voted to remove the liquor permit from the consent agenda and vote on it as a separate item.
The four aldermen present (Ward 2's Kathy Schweikert and Ward 2's George Rich were absent) were obviously torn over the vote.
Ward 1 Alderman Tony Zito said, "These are all worthy causes," but added that he was concerned that the board had not been given enough time to consider the event.
When the question was called, Zito abstained. Ward 2 Alderman Karen Vennard said it was one of the hardest decisions she'd had to make as an alderman, eventually casting a yes vote. After a long pause, Ward 2 Alderman Ralph Sidebottom followed Zito's lead in abstaining. Ward 3's Richard Morris voted no.
Potter called for a break–unprecedented in the two years this reporter has covered Lake Saint Louis board meetings—until a decision could be made if the abstentions counted as "no" votes or no vote at all, while Markworth and City Attorney Matt Reh consulted Robert's Rules of Order.
When Reh determined that the abstentions counted as nothing, leaving the vote at one "yes" and one "no"—which would give Potter the tie-breaking vote—Zito quickly asked to change his vote to "no."
The Rocktoberfest liquor license was denied.
Greg Jones spoke to Patch after the meeting. "The success of our fundraiser will be severely impacted by the inability to have a beer garden," he said. "The actions by the three aldermen who either abstained or voted no are extremely disappointing."