To participate in Christmas in Avondale, Mellow Mushroom paid a $150 fee to Avondale Merchant Association, Inc in order to sell food on site. Many vendors that are not part of the Shoppes of Avondale participate in Christmas in Avondale. For instance, located directly across the street from the old gas station property Saturday night was a mobile food vendor that routinely sells food at the Riverside Arts Market. The underlying zoning (CCG-1, which allows for the sale of beer and wine by right) of the property allowed for such use and all of the proper and legal paperwork was in order which allowed for this charity event to take place.
What follows is my eyewitness account of the disturbing events that happened Saturday night. A team of four or five agents of the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) turned up about 6:20PM. One of the agents arrived first without wearing an ABT jacket. She then bought a beer and talked to the bar staff who explained it was a charity event for Nemours. That agent then left via the entrance passing a clear sign saying do not take alcohol past this point. The team of agents then returned wearing ABT jackets and asked to see the proper paperwork. The agents were aggressive and made several threatening remarks to participants of the charity event in front of children. As mentioned previously, the paperwork followed the letter and intent of the law without blemish. Eventually, the ABT was satisfied that the event was 100% compliant and left the premises after about 45 minutes. Open containers sold by nearby restaurants are the norm at Christmas in Avondale. Yet, a charitable event featuring childrens activities and a food truck was the only site investigated by ABT on Saturday night.
I was forwarded an email from We Love Avondale sent to its members, just a few hours before the raid was called in on the charity event. The email was fraught with inaccurate information. The timing of this email is suspiciously curious. The following is the transcript of that communication:
When you visit Christmas in Avondale this evening (because of course you will!) , you may notice the food truck on the old garage parcel. Brought into the event by John Valentino, this addition to Christmas in Avondale is over the objection of the President of the Avondale Merchants Association. This is not the addition of a merchant in the Shoppes to the event the food truck is not Mellow Mushroom but Burrito Brothers, a restaurant located downtown and the sale of beer on this property is not permitted under the zoning.
Christmas in Avondale is wholly sponsored by the merchants in the Shoppes. They organize, schedule and fund the event. This is their opportunity to show the community what they offer for the Christmas season and to get to know you, their neighbors, better. The snow slide, Santa and other childrens events have been part of kicking off Christmas in Avondale for 17 years or so.
So please do come out and enjoy the festivities. Know that the Mellow Mushrooms addition to the event does not in any way say that this establishment is coming to the Shoppes. The public hearing on the appeal of the approval granted by the Planning Commission has been scheduled for January 5 (Saturday) at 9 AM. Please plan to attend and participate this will be the most important contribution you can make toward maintaining the quality of your neighborhood!
I care deeply for this city and for the Riverside/Avondale neighborhood. We can all respectfully disagree with zoning issues, while still maintaining a personal sense of dignity and mutually respectful decorum towards one another. However, I cannot comprehend the harassment myself and many friends were forced to bear this Saturday for simply deciding to legally raise money for a worthy cause. We shouldnt punish the audacity of those trying to make our community a better place. The end result of Saturday night was a donation of over $1,000 to Nemours in order to support children diagnosed with cancer while men, women and children of all ages enjoyed their evening.
Editorial by Mike Field