The balance between trying to safely hold community events in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic while dealing with what guidelines to follow and the type of enforcement that should be used came to a head this week with the Porterville Cars and Coffee event.
And the city of Porterville will have to continue to deal with the issue as the Porterville Chamber of Commerce wants to hold Pop-Up Drive-in Movie events at the same Porterville Plaza site on Henderson that the Cars and Coffee event has been held.
The organization Porterville Cars and Coffee has been holding events for car enthusiasts at Porterville Plaza for sometime now. But it appears the event may have actually become too successful for its own good.
The event was being held every last Saturday of the month and during the last event on January 31 there were about 400 cars at the event.
Organizers of the event posted on their Facebook page this week the event that would have normally been held this Sunday won't be held because it was being forced to stop the event by the City of Porterville. The Recorder reported on the event being placed on hold in Thursday's edition.
That led to a response from organizers who posted on its Facebook page they weren't pleased with The Recorder article.
Porterville Mayor Monte Reyes maintains the property owner doesn't approve of the event. But Jose Olivera, an organizer of the event, says the property owner was pressured by the City of Porterville and informed him the city doesn't want the event to be held.
Organizers of the event also posted on their Facebook page a citation they received from the City of Porterville for holding the event. The citation states the fine for holding the event was $100.
Also listed on the citation is the address of the property owner, Cloverfield Property Management based in Santa Monica. A call to the company wasn't returned on Friday.
“I don't get the deal is with the city of Porterville,” Olivera said. “They didn't even bother to work with me.”
But Reyes disputes that. He said since last summer when the pandemic was at its height and the City Council approved a measure that limited gatherings to 10 within the city, the city did look at how such an event as Cars and Coffee could be held safely while following guidelines.
He said organizers of the event went through the application process with the city, but the guidelines for the event to be held weren't met for the application to be approved. He said in the early fall, “at the time it was not approved” by the City Council.
But Reyes said the event continued to be held as a “peaceful protest” and organizers of the event have billed the event on their Facebook page as a “peaceful protest.” Reyes said holding the event as a “peaceful protest” provided it with “certain protections to a certain degree.”
Reyes maintains the organizers have received approval for the event from a business on the property and “not the actual and legal property owner.”
But Olivera said, yes, they sought approval from a business at the property, but also called Cloverfield Property Management and said the company told them they were also OK with the event.
“Just go ahead and hold it,” he said about what the company told him, adding the company told him, “please don't let anything get out of hand.”
But that all changed after the January 31 event. Olivera said he was told by the company it was informed by the city it “was not happy with the event. I don't know what they said. I don't know what they told the owner.”
“It was a peaceful event,” Olivera said. “Nothing happened.”
While Reyes maintains organizers of the event didn't meet the requirements for the application to be approved for the event to be held, Olivera said he did, including providing masks for all those who attend and sanitizers. “I can't force people to put the masks on,” he said.
But Olivera said if the city had come to him calling for such a requirement for everyone at the event to wear a mask, he would have worked with the city.
Olivera said there's never been an issue with the event. “Everybody's hanging out, eating donuts, drinking coffee,” he said.
He added there are those who have come from places like Bakersfield to the event and they end up purchasing food from local restaurants. “That's money for the restaurants that are struggling, trying to make ends meat,” Olivera said.
Organizers of the event have posted on their Facebook page that the city needs to care more for its businesses and also needs a City Council that cares for its businesses. Reyes said that assertion was unfair.
Reyes said the city has been working with the city's existing business trying to provide as much support to them as they can, with such actions as helping restaurants to offer outdoor dining. He added even one business has been added to the Porterville Plaza.
POP-UP DRIVE-IN MOVIES
Porterville Chamber of Commerce CEO Jessica Brackeen said the chamber is ready to approach the City Council with its plan to provide Pop-Up Drive-In Movies at the Porterville Plaza. She said the screen for Pop-Up Drive In Movies the chamber has acquired should arrive in the next couple of weeks.
She said the chamber will partner with Galaxy 9 Theatre at the site in which Galaxy will furnish snacks for the event. She said all COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed during the event.
Brackeen said all the volunteers, including help from local high schools students, are in place for Pop-Up Drive-In Movies to be held. “We have a plan,” Brackeen said. “We're just hoping it could be approved.”
The Chamber held a trunk n treat event at the Porterville Plaza last Halloween in conjunction with Galaxy. As far as the chamber applying to hold Pop-Up Drive-In movies at the site, Reyes said “it would be a similar process” as the one in which the trunk n treat event was approved by the city.
“It's not impossible to hold an event,” at the site, Reyes said. “It just has to meet certain requirements.”
Reyes noted in its trunk n treat event, the Chamber worked with law enforcement and it was a drive-thru event in which no one was allowed to leave their vehicles. He added the idea of the event was to hold something so there would be less children trick or treating.