Festival organizers, irked by police bill, may file a lawsuit

Organizers of the North Beach Jazz Festival said they will file a lawsuit Monday if a compromise cannot be reached earlier on what they feel are lofty charges from the Police Department to secure the event.

Police gave organizers a $25,613.88 bill to have 16 officers patrol the festival and make sure outside alcohol is not brought into Washington Square Park, according to Robert Kowal, the director of the North Beach Jazz Festival. Last year, organizers paid $4,650 for police services while the total budget for the festival is between $70,000 and $80,000.

The two-day music festival, on July 29 and 30, has featured live music in Washington Square for the last 12 years and draws about 7,000 people.

The higher charges come on the heels of a Recreation and Park Commission decision that almost forced organizers to cancel the event, they said. In late May the commission denied a permit that would have allowed alcohol to be consumed in Washington Square Park because of some resident complaints that alcohol in the park closes off the public square to minors and causes security concerns in the neighborhood. Event organizers said alcohol sales fund 80 percent of their budget.

But on June 2, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom brokered a compromise allowing alcohol to be consumed in parts of the park ifdrinks were purchased in a secured beer garden. No outside drinks would be allowed.

In a letter sent to Capt. James Dudley of the Central Police Station on Thursday, Matthew Kumin, a lawyer for the festival, said that if a resolution is not met before Monday he will be forced to file papers in San Francisco Superior Court.

“I apologize for the urgency and speed with which I will have to file the suit but given the fact that the festival is now just a few weeks away, my clients need a quick decision either way so they can make appropriate plans, either to put on the event or to arrange for its cancellation,” he said to Dudley.

Dudley had agreed to meet with organizers July 11 or 12, according to Kumin, but he said that was too close to the event. He said organizers need an explanation for the higher fees before then so they can act accordingly.

An officer from the Central Station working on the permit said the numbers for the amount of officers needed has not been determined and is “in flux” as they often are for events like the Jazz Festival.

“We will definitely come to an agreement, but what that will be we cannot say right now,” he said.

Bay Area NewsLocal

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