Oyster Festival Profits Go to Senior Center
The Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted to donate $10,000 to the Doubleday Babcock Senior Center. It will be used to compilment their matching gifts from three local businessmen to bring DBSC $20,000 closer to its goal. Roger Bahnik donated $200,000; Fritz Courdet III donated $100,000 and George O'Neill donated $100,000 in matching grants that will generate funds to complete the building program of DBSC.
"We have enough to finish the building - not enough to furnish or decorate it," said DBSC Board President Angela Koenig. She accepted the check for $10,000 from Chamber President Greg Koke on Sunday, Dec. 7, at the annual DBSC holiday party. The gala was well attended and was a showcase for the new building that will soon house the seniors.
That $10,000 is about equal to the chamber's Light-a-Pole campaign, said Greg Koke, as he spoke at the chamber meeting on Thursday, Dec. 4 at the Homestead Restaurant. He explained one of the little glitches in the annual lighting project. "We don't have that many telephone poles in town. We can't spell Happy Holidays (ending with an "S") across South Street because the pole bends into the road. There is no room for the 'S'.
"That set of poles is the only set of poles that line up (across the street) in town," he said.
The chamber pays for setting up the lights, repairing the ornaments and for the LILCO electric bill. The music program in the street, costs another $600.
The $10,000 the chamber gave to DBSC is out of the $46,000 they made at the Oyster Festival. "That's what its all about," said Karen DeVine-Minicozzi. She and Vinnie DiNapoli will co-chair the 1998 Oyster Festival. The first meeting for the next fest is on Tuesday, Dec. 9.
"It's worth it. You can see by the donation tonight," Mrs. DeVine-Minicozzi said about chairing the Oyster Festival. "It's an inconvenience, but for two days, I think it's worth it."
In fact, she said, "I think it's wonderful." She is looking forward to working with Vinnie DiNapoli. "He's a great guy. I'm looking forward to working with him," she said.
"It's a big nut to crack," said Greg Koke, talking about the Oyster Festival. "It cost us $118,000 to put on," he said. It cost $4,000 to take away the garbage including paying for the garbage bags. There were the port-a-potties to rent, the tents to rent, and on and on it goes, he said.
"It costs an amazing amount of money. It attracts a lot of controversy," he said, "which has been why it has changed over the years."
He said, "Now is the time to get involved in next year's festival. We are always looking for help. It's a lot of work, especially during the festival.
"If anything needs to be changed - tell us now," he said.
He ran through some of the changes that occurred over the years and said, "The only way to change it is to get involved now."
One of the major changes made was when the chamber decided not to sponsor any alcohol at the festival. During the first few years the festival was run, the chamber and the Kiwanis Club were partners in selling beer at the festival. The Kiwanis Club of East Norwich, Oyster Bay, the Brookvilles and Muttontown had the permit to sell beer on the street and they provided all the workers. They split the profits with the chamber. The Kiwanians gave out sizable scholarships with the money they earned.
The policy was changed when Joe McLaughlin chaired the Oyster Festival. Joe decided there were some elements of the festival that had to be changed, explained Barbara Hadel, a past chair of the festival. Those issues were the amount of alcohol being consumed; the liability issue the chamber in case of a problem and that the festival was losing the focus of being a family event.
So the decision was made that in order to return it to a family kind of festival and to lighten the level of liability, that the chamber would no longer sell beer through the Kiwanis. The change was evident the next year. The crowds were different. The Kiwanis were offered the option of selling something else at the festival. They tried selling a non-alcoholic beer, O'Douls. It was not a financial success for them and out of concern for the loss of their scholarship money, the chamber made a one-time donation to them for that cause.
"We asked them to try the non-alcoholic beer so we subsidized their booth. The chamber felt badly that Kiwanis was going into the next year without funds. We told them, this is a one-shot deal. You can come back next year but we will not subsidize you. We suggested they hire a vendor and supply the labor." They haven't.
That no-alcohol policy was kept when the festival was under the chairmanship of Michael Corssen. When Barbara Hadel became chairperson she said, "I would not be the chair unless the bars were closed. A significant amount of vandalism was taking place after the festival closed and we wanted to stop that.
"I met with the all vendors and worked out a compromise solution with the local restaurants and bars agreeing, that they would limit their hours."
Canterbury Ales stops serving beer at 6 p.m. when the festival closes so he can open later, for his regular dinner customers. "We tried to follow his philosophy, and in general, the village is much more peaceful."
Added to the closings, the chamber spoke to the police inspector and at his suggestion the bike race was eliminated so that more police would be available at night. Previously, the police would leave the area at 6 p.m. when the festival closed.
The Kiwanis Club and the chamber were not the only groups that lost revenue from the loss of alcohol. The Masons sold Pina Coladas and they had to stop. They presently are using their own location, the Matinecock Lodge, as their festival site. They own the commercial building and rent out space. They became members of the chamber this year again.
At the chamber meeting another issue came to the floor.
The 1997 Oyster Festival was "crashed," by an outside vendor - the Long Island Brewing Company. A reliable source told this newspaper that a representative of the LIBC came to the chamber office in early October, asking to be part of the event. A chamber representative told the person that the festival guidelines say the event is for the benefit of Oyster Bay merchants and non-profits. That makes it possible to hold down the size of the event and to regulate who may participate. They were also told that the chamber doesn't sell alcohol to limit their liability for the event.
The LIBC instead rented space in the Oyster Bay Deli on South Street and sold beer in large glass "vases."
The fact that LIBC was selling beer in large glass flasks was another issue. That too, using glass serving containers, has been addressed by the chamber over the years. They have asked vendors not to sell bottles but to sell cans and to put beer in plastic glasses - all to prevent injury.
At the meeting, Greg Koke also mentioned that the LIBC permit from the New York State Liquor Authority was a catering license. He said they were allowed to serve beer, but selling it is a different issue.
They also added the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce to their insurance form without permission, which as explained by the no-alcohol policy, the chamber would not have done.
Several other issues were discussed at the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce meeting on Dec. 4. They will be in this newspaper next week.