Ybor merchants, Chamber come together (sort of) on un-fencing Guavaween

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The issue isn't complicated. For over 20 years now, a fence has been set up on Guavaween, with an admission of $12 in advance or $17 the night of the event required to get inside the historic entertainment district. Chamber officials say approximately 20,000 attended last year's event.

Bar, restaurant and club owners don't like it because they say that because patrons are allowed to drink on the streets legally for that one night, there is no incentive for them to visit Ybor establishments for food, alcohol or entertainment that night.

Late last year, frustrated Ybor merchants decided to fight the Chamber's resistance to changing the format and created the Ybor Merchants Association. They then lobbied members of the City Council to put the issue on today's agenda, essentially creating a deadline for the less than enthusiastic Ybor Chamber to deal with the issue, one way or another.

Though Boom didn't necessarily sound ebullient, he said he and his colleagues are now working with the Chamber in cooperation, and called it a "happy day moving forward."

Hamburg from the Chamber confirmed that "we are working on a plan without a fence" at this time. He also said to do that would require "a lot of additional work and long-term financial investment by all parties," and said (as did Boom) they're hoping the city of Tampa will help sponsor this year's event.

Vince Pardo from the Ybor City Development Corporation (YCDC) said he was pleased with the progress between the parties. He admitted that the issue had started out "adversarial" but said everybody was now on the same page moving forward. "We want this to be successful for the Chamber...and we want this to be financially successful for all the merchants."

There was no date set for when the players would return to the City Council, but they likely will once a new plan for the event is set in place.

It's looking like there will not be a fence surrounding the Ybor City entertainment district at this year's Guavaween celebration.

That's the sentiment that was expressed at Thursday's Tampa City Council meeting. Speakers were Ybor bar owner Richard Boom and Marc Hamburg, an executive board member on the Ybor Chamber and the chair of the Guavaween committee.

Last week CL reported on the dissension between members of the Ybor City business community and the Ybor Chamber regarding Guavaween. The annual Saturday night before Halloween extravaganza in Ybor is a big fundraiser for the Chamber, but hasn't done much for the bottom line of many Ybor businesses in recent years.

Boom, the owner of the bar A Dirty Shame, began by telling the Council, "We had reports from the media (last year) that it was a wonderful event. In fact, it was quite detrimental to our businesses."

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