AM commissioner raises concerns about event security

Not everyone is pleased with the impact Bayfest has on local businesses.

At a city commission meeting Oct. 26, Anna Maria Commissioner Brian Seymour raised concerns about instructions to private security officers and how the annual Bayfest event impacts businesses on Pine Avenue.

Bayfest, presented by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, took place Oct. 21 on Pine Avenue. Parts of the street were closed for the duration of the festival and vendors, including beverage sales, lined the street.

Seymour said security officers hired this year by the chamber discouraged people from entering businesses on Pine Avenue or bringing merchandise outdoors to the street from those stores.

Specifically, Seymour had issues when customers who purchased alcohol at his store, Anna Maria General Store, were directed by officers to drink the alcohol on the store property before returning to the festival.

Seymour said the store has a license to sell alcohol “to go” and the license prohibits him from allowing customers to drink on the premises.

“What they were telling my customers could cost me my license,” Seymour said. “I had a real problem with that.”

He also said he had an issue with the fact the event appeared to discourage attendees from visiting his store because he was not part of the festival.

Seymour added that for last year’s Bayfest, he closed his store early due to loss of business resulting from the festival, adding that an intoxicated festival attendee attempted to take him on in a fist fight.

Permit requirements for Bayfest stipulate that alcohol from outside the event may not be brought into the event, while alcohol purchased at the event must be consumed within the event boundaries.

Security officers may be required for events if Sgt.  Russell Schnering, head of the Anna Maria substation, determines there is a need, but permit holders currently have the option to hire MCSO or private security.

The commissioner asked Mayor Dan Murphy to limit security for the event to the city’s Manatee County sheriff’s patrol deputies.

Murphy said Nov. 9 he planned to arrange a meeting between himself, Seymour, Schnering and Deb Wing, president of the chamber to discuss the events at Bayfest.

Murphy also said the city would rely on MCSO for future events.

But Wing disputes the narrative Seymour shared about Bayfest.

“Nearly every word that Seymour said was untrue and lies,” she wrote in an email Nov. 10.

Wing said Seymour had his employees contact the chamber on his behalf and they did not convey his claims.

In addition, she said, she visited his establishment during Bayfest “as an issue was unfolding” in order to address the situation and set the rules.

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