Brewhaha erupts over Boise beer festival

Friday , May 18, 2012 - 9:35 AM

Patrick Orr

BOISE -- For the past three summers, thousands of craft beer enthusiasts have filled Ann Morrison Park to taste samples of the best brew the American West has to offer.

Boise police didn't report any major public safety problems, and Barley Brothers Traveling Beer Festival was considered a gastronomic and financial success -- and deemed a key part of the burgeoning craft beer scene in Idaho's capital.

But that's not the case in 2012. The city is suing festival owner Brewforia Beer Market for $7,886 plus interest, saying the organizers owe about $4,000 for turf damage and garbage cleanup at Ann Morrison and another $3,693 to cover the cost of police protection for last August's festival. Parks and Recreation officials say they don't want the festival back this summer.

Festival organizer Rick Boyd says he is tired of dealing with Boise park officials and is taking the event to Meridian.

All that's left to discuss in this divorce is the money.

Boyd said he's happy to pay a fair cost for any turf damage the festival is responsible for. But, he said, the city tried to significantly overcharge him and might still be doing so.

Boyd said the first bill he got for turf damage was for $11,000 last fall. That was reduced to $3,926 by January after he questioned the means by which the city determined the charge, he said.

The final bill is still about twice what he paid the previous two years, Boyd said.

"My position is I would be more than happy to pay for any damage, but I can't trust (the city)," Boyd said. "I'm not interested in being taken advantage of."

Scott Muir, an attorney with the city working on the case, said the city gave Boyd the opportunity to address concerns he had with billing. The city is suing for what the damage was, he said.

"The bottom line is what (we billed) in the lawsuit is what we believe he owes us," Muir said. "We sat down and talked to him about how we came up with those figures."

The city bills for turf damage after measuring how much turf needs to be replaced and getting a bid for the sod, city officials said.

Muir said city officials eventually decided to sue when Boyd's bill didn't get paid.

City spokesman Adam Park said the original bill was $11,000 because the turf damage was worse than years past. That was particularly because of a beer can-toss game that caused grass damage; more vehicles than usual parked on the turf; and a broken sprinkler pipe.

Park said the city reduced Brewforia's bill after it decided to do a larger turf repair at the park, which reduced the price from $2 per square foot to 49 cents. Park said the city passed on the savings to Brewforia.

Boyd said he did not see specific damage from can-tossing game, and that parks officials didn't have photos to back it up. He also said the festival had fewer vehicles on the grass in 2011.

He said he reviewed his his financial records and determined Brewforia had not been billed for police services for the 2011 festival. He said he called the Police Department to get an invoice, intending to pay as soon as he was billed. He was told they wouldn't send him a bill at this point, he said.

Boyd suspects that's because the police bill is tied up in the lawsuit. Boyd said he has no dispute with the $3,693 amount.

Even without the city's lawsuit, Boyd said, he would have moved the Barley Brothers Traveling Beer Festival to Meridian because the city of Boise keeps raising the charges for the event at Ann Morrison Park and has been difficult to deal with.

City records show the charge for the 2009 festival was about $11,000 and $17,000 in 2010. City records show the 2011 total charge was $22,261, but that figure included the $11,000 for turf repair.

Boyd also said the city of Boise has park regulations that don't make sense -- like requiring festival-goers to use portable toilets and not park bathrooms.

"I want to make sure people understand that I am not bashing Boise in any way," he said. "I love Boise. It's just frustrating for me to see the city acting so short-sightedly."

The feeling appears to be mutual. Parks and rec officials said they knew last fall they didn't want the festival back for 2012.

In an official evaluation form provided by the city, parks and recreation staffers said the beer festival organizers "say one thing and do another." They also said festival organizers didn't insulate the kegs or keep them off the ground; didn't do a good job of controlling the vehicles on the turf; and didn't make sure some vendors followed park rules.

"We need to trust the event organizers to do what they say they will do and to use good judgment," the memo says.

Boyd said the beer festival's new site at Meridian's Julius Kleiner Park at Eagle Road and Fairview Avenue is a nicer facility with 700 parking spaces. He suspects there might be a smaller crowd this year after leaving a prime location like Ann Morrison Park, close to Downtown and other parks along the Boise River. But Julius Kleiner Park won't have the parking issues and restroom restrictions he had to deal with in Boise parks, Boyd said

Julius Kleiner Park is set to open to the public June 9. Meridian officials say beer festival organizers have a tentative reservation on the park for Sept. 1 and 2 and don't anticipate any major problems with the event.

(c)2012 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

Visit The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho) at www.idahostatesman.com

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