Venice takes ‘case by case’ approach in suspension of special events permits

Sarasota County

VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — Due to rising concerns surrounding COVID-19 infections, the City of Venice put a halt on special events permits. Notice of that decision came down earlier this week.

“As much as we regret what appears to be a step backwards in our fight against the virus, we believe that in the interest of public health and safety, this caution is necessary,” said City Manager Ed Lavallee Tuesday.

Some local merchants didn’t agree with the city’s move and expressed concerns of the decision ultimately affecting their livelihoods.

“I think it is crazy,” said Orchid Envy owner Natalee McKinney. “I think at this point in the game, we need to be open to the public. Everybody needs to be back to work, and if you’re uncomfortable with it and you want to wear a mask or stay home, that is up to you.”

Ken Heitel, owner of Heitel Jewelers said he understands the city’s decision was a tough one.

“Well, we understand what they have to do, and we are not happy about it, but we are not happy about COVID-19,” Heitel said.

Others we heard from just wish they had a chance to share their viewpoint before the city came to a decision.

“I just think we should have known about it so that we could voice our concerns and our opinions because we seem to be have been forgotten. It is our livelihood,” business owner Deborah Iversen said.

Lavallee told 8 On Your Side Friday afternoon, the city will handle each permit ‘case by case’.

What we suspended was business as usual, special events going ahead with no safety plan at all, so until those numbers drop, we are going to want to work with the applicants to make sure they have a safety plan for the protection of the workers and the patrons,” said Lavallee.

The 12th Annual Downtown Venice Craft Festival will be the first special event application to be approved. The popular, outdoor event is planned for Labor Day weekend. There will be COVID-19 safety measures in place. Lavallee says the plan was reviewed and approved by the local health department.

“For future events, based on discussions with event coordinators, incorporating elements of former successful special event safety plans, and adopting the recommendations of the County Health Officer, the City has models that can be used in consort with special event applicants to design a safe and protective event venue,” explained Lavallee.

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