NEW PORT RICHEY — The Cotee River Seafood Festival is kicking off Friday night with an oldies show at Sims Park — and, for only the second time in city history, beer and wine sales for concertgoers.
So how did Chasco Fiesta fare in March when it made the trial run at selling alcohol at Sims?
Sales, which have been a controversial issue in the city, weren't a source of problems — or of much money.
In the end, beer and wine sales, plus a new sponsorship by Budweiser, generated about $6,000 in profits. That money was split between Chasco Fiesta and West Pasco Sertoma Club, which manned the serving areas.
"We did all right," said Craig McCart, executive director of Sertoma Speech and Hearing Foundation. "It's got potential."
Chasco Executive Director Wendy Brenner said there was a learning curve. "We didn't really know what to expect," she said.
Still, the alcohol sales did generate a small profit in what turned out to be a second straight dismal year for the festival. Spending at Chasco was down about 15 percent from last year.
All of the reports aren't in yet, but organizers expect to have generated about $250,000 for the 30 nonprofits, said Brenner. In previous years, that figure has been well above $300,000.
The prospect of alcohol sales during special events at Sims Park was a major political issue last year.
Supporters said the sales would attract better events, bigger sponsors and would help nonprofit organizations raise money in a difficult economy. Opponents said the city would be inviting more irresponsible drinking, that public parks would be torn up, and that voters had spoken on this issue in 2000.
Council members struck a compromise, agreeing to give the sales a one-year tryout period. Chasco was first in line.
Neither police nor Chasco organizers reported any problems with drinking getting out of hand. Brenner said the new regulations, in fact, came with a number of expensive public safety requirements.
Those requirements included setting up double barriers around the areas where people were expected to drink. They also included $1,500 to pay for off-duty police officers, McCart said.
Brenner said the profit was "less than what we expected because our expenses were greater than we expected."
Organizers didn't promote the alcohol sales — beer sold for $3 and wine for $4 — as they didn't want a huge crowd while they were still working out the kinks.
They sold about 30 kegs of beer, well short of the 50 that Budweiser wanted them to sell, McCart said.
They learned what works, as well as what doesn't, he said. For instance, organizers had far too much wine on hand, not to mention wine distributors were even giving away free samples.
"We don't need three kinds of Cabernet," McCart said
The council will decide in December whether to continue allowing the sales. Brenner said Chasco's first run showed it could be done. And she said that she thinks Chasco could make more money next year now that it's been around the block once.
"We'll just be a little smarter about the way we do it," she said. "It was good for us."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.