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Guavaween boozing yields arrests

Dressed in civilian clothes, a squad of state beverage control agents drifted through the Guavaween crowd Saturday night in Ybor City and arrested twice as many people as the Tampa Police Department. The 13 agents handed out 55 citations, most of them for illegal drinking by minors. The youngest offender was 12 years old.

"I think that tells you there is a problem, and you can see why we should be out there," said Sgt. John T. Allen of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. He said about five of the people arrested were booked into the Hillsborough County Jail. The others were given notices to appear in court.

The police department assigned 160 uniformed officers to the giant street celebration. Another 65 off-duty officers were working at private parties. Officers arrested 26 people on charges ranging from disorderly intoxication to battery on a police officer, said Maj. Bert Hatcher.

Guavaween organizers estimated at the crowd at 120,000 people. Hatcher said it was "probably 150,000 or better." Allen said that considering the crowd, alcohol arrests "were about the same as in past years."

Hatcher said Monday he still was compiling a list of damaged property from the party.

At La Tropicana Cafe, 1822 E Seventh Ave., owner Bebe Menendez came to work Sunday and found the fence in front of his Cuban sandwich shop had been knocked down by the weight of too many parade watchers. He estimated the damage at more than $1,000. He said the popularity of the event has made it too difficult for the police to control.

"I'm very happy they didn't burn down the joint," Menendez said. "It's a beautiful thing and I am for anything that helps Ybor City, but they're going to have tone it down."

Lisa Reitan, director of the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, a co-sponsor of Guavaween, said the organizers have a $1-million insurance policy against property damage. They would pay to repair or replace the fence at La Tropicana, she said.

"I think Guavaween has peaked right now," Reitan said. "I don't want it to get too big. I don't want it to get bigger than the police can handle."

Allen said state beverage agents attend most large public events and mingle with the crowd, looking for illegal drinkers. "Anytime we have any event that lends itself to underage drinking, we'll be out there doing our job," he said. "We've been to Guavaween before. We work all the parades. We're at the state fair every day it runs."

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