Even before last year's disappointing Guavaween celebration in Ybor City, there was grumbling amongst many of the bar and restaurant owners that the annual Halloween celebration had gone astray in recent years. Those feelings intensified after one of the lowest attended Guavaweens ever last October, leading the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce (who receives the majority of their funding from admission proceeds to the event) to host a discussion Wednesday night on how to improve the street party in the future.
Chamber President Tom Keating began the meeting, attended by approximately 60 merchants, residents and Tampa Police Department officials, by saying that media reports about how poorly attended the party was last year were highly exaggerated. Keating said attendance was down 9% from the year before (to around 15,000) , and that in the past five years the attendance hasn't come close to the 80,000 or so who did come to the event back in the 1990's.
But the merchants had plenty to say, with much of the criticism revolving around the $17 gate admission, which many said was prohibitively expensive. Critics also said it was a mistake to host the event on Halloween itself. There was also unhappiness that the entertainment district became a gated community, as it were, by 2p.m. that day. Anybody who wanted to come shop or eat by that time had to pay to get inside the district.
And there was considerable back and forth about having the event gated at all.