Carnevale! Venice Beach, a masquerade modeled after the famed carnevale celebrations of Venice, Italy, has been canceled this year after the Los Angeles Police Department refused to sign off on a permit to allow liquor to be served at the event, festival organizer Esquire Jauchem alleges.
LAPD denies having refused to sign off on the permit. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will not issue a permit for alcohol to be sold at a public event without approval from the local police department that patrols the area where the event is to be held, says Joe Cruz, assistant director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for Southern California.
The outdoor festival was to be held on Saturday, May 13th, on Windward Avenue in Venice, organized by Venice Artists Forum, with a group of about 25 board members from the local community.
Carnevale events had been staged in the early years of Venice-of-America, as the city had been modeled after its Italian counterpart. In the years since World War II, carnevale events in Venice had become infrequent. In 2002, Venice Artists Forum resurrected the tradition and this would have been the fifth annual Carnevale! Venice Beach.
Event producer Esquire Jauchem estimates that the Carnevale! costs about $60,000 to stage. The free community event was going to be paid for by a $7,500 grant awarded by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and money from the sale of liquor donated by sponsors, says Jauchem.
At a meeting on Thursday, March 9th, between festival organizers, and officials from city agencies, including LAPD, Venice Artists Forum representatives were told by LAPD officials that liquor could not be sold at the event and that the police would not sign off on a liquor permit, Jauchem alleges.
LAPD Senior Lead Officer Robin Richards, who was present at the March 9th meeting, disputes organizers’ claims.
“They were not denied,” says Richards. “That did not happen at the meeting. That is not accurate.”
When asked to explain LAPD’s position on the liquor permit, Richards responded, “I do not want to continue this conversation.”
Eleventh District Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s Venice field deputy Mark Grant attempted to mediate the disagreement between LAPD and organizers.
“We were eventually told that the police would allow us to have a beer garden between the hours of noon and 5 p.m., the slowest hours of the festival,” says Jauchem.
Festival hours were set to be from noon to 10 p.m.
“Seeing as we didn’t have a beer sponsor — we had a liquor sponsor — that was not a solution,” says Jauchem. The Venice Artists Forum board members met and we determined that even if we were able to secure a beer sponsor, alcohol sales during the slowest festival hours couldn’t nearly be enough to cover festival costs, so we were left with no other option than to cancel the event.”
According to both Jauchem and Grant, LAPD officials said they had issues with the location of the festival being held close to Venice Beach at night, and saw a potential for problems of disorderliness and drunkeness.
Jauchem says that at past festivals, there has not been any problem with drunkeness or disorderliness.
Jauchem says he proposed to move the festival to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, at the site used for the Abbot Kinney Festival, and to use the same protocol for serving alcohol as is used at the Abbot Kinney Festival. Still LAPD’s answer was no, Jauchem alleges.
“The irony is that there are about five bars in close proximity to the Windward Circle,” he says. “So there would indeed be alcohol at the event anyway, we just wouldn’t be able to benefit from its sale.”
Jauchem says the Venice Artists Forum is currently scouting out nearby cities, including Santa Monica, to potentially hold the carnevale some six months to a year down the line.
Rosendahl says he still believes that a solution can be reached to keep the carnevale in Venice, but that it looks like a postponement will be necessary in order for a satisfactory solution to be reached with LAPD.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to sit down with LAPD, compare a sheet on how the Abbot Kinney Festival and the Venice Art Walk do it and work it all out,” says Rosendahl.
In the meantime, Jauchem says the situation just doesn’t add up.
“We just want the LAPD to treat us like they treat the other festivals in town,” says Jauchem. “Because right now, it’s like they are offering us a swimming pool, but then saying we can’t put any water in it.”