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Food Fight in Bethel! Division Between the Town of Bethel and Bethel Chamber of Commerce

Report by Paula Antolini, September 9, 2019, 8:11AM EDT

(Updated September 9, 2019, 12:40PM EDT)

“Rice and Beans,” one of the many food truck businesses that were vendors at Food Truck Friday and/or the Beer Fest in Bethel over the years. (File Photo ©Bethel Advocate 2017)

There is a controversy between the Town of Bethel and the Bethel Chamber of Commerce over out-of-town food trucks being allowed to do business at summer events or at all, in Bethel, CT. Both the Bethel Chamber of Commerce director Bradley (Brad) Koltz, and Dionne Craig, Office Administrator for the Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker’s Office, have each issued extensive public comment regarding this issue.

In the past years, food trucks have been vendors mainly at two types of events in Bethel: “Food Truck Friday” (FTF) event, which are bi-monthly events in the summer, held from 5-8 p.m. on the 1st & 3rd Fridays in June, July & August (June 7th – August 16th, in 2019) with live music, organized by the Town of Bethel under Dionne Craig, and sponsored mainly by the Newtown Savings Bank; and the “BeerFest” event, held once a year in the summer (on Friday, July 26th in 2019), that is organized by the Bethel Chamber of Commerce under Bradley (Brad) Koltz. Both events take place on the CJH Municipal Center lawn.

The Food Truck Friday events seemed to go on as they did in previous years. However, the most recent BeerFest was noticeably different. The event was advertised as having “live music and local food vendors, unlimited beer tastings and unlimited food sampling from 7 local restaurants, craft beers and the brewers that create them” but attendees experienced NO food trucks as in years past. There were only two local food vendors there (not food trucks), O’Neil’s Sandwich & Coffee Bar LLC (restaurant located at 114 Greenwood Ave, Bethel, CT), and Taproot (restaurant located at 269 Greenwood Ave, Bethel, CT) serving food. In some cases there was a wait time for food orders as much as 45 minutes to an hour as the local food vendors tried their best to service approximately 500-600 hungry attendees. There were also no tables and chairs for people to sit and eat upon as in previous years, other than two VIP tables to the side, across from the gazebo near School Street. Guests knew something was amiss and have been talking about this.

So what happened?

*****

The complaint about Food truck Friday was recently brought forward by the Bethel Chamber of Commerce Director Bradley (Brad) Koltz, organizer of the BeerFest, in a lengthy editorial he wrote in his own Bethel Gazette publication, dated August 16, 2019, entitled “It’s Time For Bethel To Get Serious About Supporting Local Business.” This was also shared to local Facebook forums on August 27, 2019 (view his full Facebook post at the end of this article).

Speaking out against Food Truck Friday events held by the Town of Bethel (not the Chamber), he stated in part, “The Town aggressively promotes this biweekly assault on it’s largest base of businesses and calls it Food Truck Friday, and throws in a free concert to celebrate the devastation.” He said that “out-of-town food trucks” are ” taking business away from the more than 50 local restaurants in Bethel.

“The Town aggressively promotes this biweekly assault on it’s largest base of businesses and calls it Food Truck Friday, and throws in a free concert to celebrate the devastation.”

–Brad Koltz

Koltz said, “Bethel has over 50 eateries, representing a huge array of tastes. Yet instead of highlighting the amazing diversity and selection of these businesses, who pay taxes, who employ hundreds of local people, who buy goods and services from other local businesses, who attract customers from other towns, who generously donate to our schools and other causes whenever asked, and who keep more than 50 retail locations from becoming an empty blight upon our community, instead of focusing on them, we bring in mobile competitors from other communities to literally take the customers and food from their tables.

*****

In response to Koltz’s editorial, Dionne Craig, one of the organizers of Food Truck Friday, and Office Administrator for the Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker’s Office, recently wrote a rather lengthy “clarification to comments being made about FTF [Food Truck Friday]” but posted it only in one local Bethel Facebook forum, not on the town website, or in a location where all residents could see it, or in a town email or newsletter etc.

Referring to Koltz’s editorial, Craig said, “The letter that was written by Director of Chamber of Commerce Brad Koltz, in his paper and FB page, The Bethel Gazette, and especially the statement ‘The Town aggressively promotes this biweekly assault on it’s largest base of business and call it Food Truck Friday, and throws in a free concert to celebrate the devastation’ could not be more untrue.”

Craig wrote, “Every year that we have had an event on the Municipal Lawn, Farmer’s Market, Community Market or Food Truck Friday, I have always reached out to the Chamber of Commerce and invited them to play whatever role in the event that would help ‘spotlight’ the downtown businesses and restaurants.

She wrote, “I have consistently reached out to the Chamber, year after year and asked if any local restaurants would like to participate. I have offered the lawn as a place to set up a table and share the different highlights of downtown Bethel. I have shared the idea of creating events before or after FTF and passing out coupons or fliers at the event. I am open to anything and will do whatever is within my capacity to help promote downtown Bethel. With that being said, I have always reached out and worked with the Directors of the Chamber, Bobbi Jo and Heather were wonderful to work with, because I thought that was what the Director of the Chamber was suppose to do.

Craig went over the history of the outdoor events over the years, which started as a Farmer’s Market, and then said, “I have come to love FTF, not for the Food Trucks, although I think they do help attract the people, but for what I see happening on our Municipal Lawn every 1st & 3rd Friday, June – August, 5-8pm. I see community gathering, bringing lawn chairs and blankets, setting up space on the lawn to just ‘hang out’ with friends, family and sometimes neighbors they have never met before. I see parents have a ‘safe spot’ to just let their kids be kids and run around and play. I see people from every generation with smiles on their faces greeting one another and happy to be a part of an event that doesn’t happen too often but is something nice to look forward to.

There seems to be a disagreement between the two parties, and Craig said, “I also don’t understand how if Mr. Koltz is so passionate about this then why when I called him at the beginning of the season to discuss or sent him emails to try and work on making the situation better he didn’t have any ideas but he does choose at the end of the season to use his paper as a way to only tell part of the story and create discontent and friction between Town Hall and our business community.

I also don’t understand how if Mr. Koltz is so passionate about this … he does choose at the end of the season to use his paper as a way to only tell part of the story and create discontent and friction between Town Hall and our business community.

–Dionne Craig

*****

The question becomes, who are these Bethel businesses that are unhappy about Food Truck Friday? So far, in the beginning of our investigation, we can find no disgruntled business owners regarding Food Truck Friday. In fact, in some cases, restaurant business owners or other business establishments in Bethel said Food Truck Friday didn’t really affect them one way or the other or said their business actually increased during Food Truck Fridays.

Bethel’s La Zingara executive chef and owner Lisa Tassone (restaurant located at 8 PT Barnum Square Bethel, CT), and part owner in Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery, (restaurant located in the old Bethel train station, 5 Depot Pl, Bethel, CT) said that in the beginning it actually helped her businesses.

Melissa Corona, 27-year business owner in Bethel, proprietress of Beyond the Flea Dog Grooming (located at 20 P.T. Barnum Square) said, “I had three people who told me they walked through town after FTF and didn’t know about Beyond the Flea Dog Grooming, they were on their way to get ice cream as a matter of fact, IN BETHEL, so they called and booked, so it does promote business. My husband and I as well have attended two FTF and then we go get coffee at Molten Java in Bethel.”

Wendy Cahill, owner of Molten Java (located at 213 Greenwood Ave) said, “Looking at the big picture, any event that brings people downtown is positive for downtown business. I do feel that Bethel based businesses should exempt from fees if they want to participate in FTF.”

We spoke at length with the Green Grunion Food Truck owner Paul Mannion, also part owner in Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery, (restaurant located in the old Bethel train station, 5 Depot Pl, Bethel, CT), a perfect person to speak to because he is on both sides of the issue as a Bethel restaurant owner and food truck business owner.

Mannion said he didn’t get “an invite” to the last BeerFest, which is how he is usually notified each year. Regarding the process of how some events include food trucks and some do not, he said, “I understand, a lot of events end up changing avenues or bringing other things … but I guess the bigger thing is, just do a little more research on what’s local and what’s not, as far as the food trucks, because he [Koltz][ was wrong, that’s the whole thing.”

I guess the bigger thing is, just do a little more research on what’s local and what’s not, as far as the food trucks, because he [Koltz] was wrong, that’s the whole thing.”

—Paul Mannion

Regarding whether or not food truck vendors are Bethel residents, and thus local business owners, and Brad Koltz misinterpreting food truck business ownership, Mannion said, “There’s two specific trucks, I know of mine, and Chef Zip, we’re both Bethel residents, the reason why we’re not a permit in Bethel is simply because you can’t get a year-long permit in Bethel, so everybody has to go to Danbury. So that’s a lame duck, he [Koltz] didn’t do his research … that’s the only thing that annoys me.”

“My only gripe, and even though you didn’t ask me, I am more than happy to say, is the messing with the Food Truck Friday thing,” said Mannion, because while I understand it may put a little hamper in some restaurants for six days out of the entire year, it brings more people downtown whether you are from here or not, that doesn’t matter to me, because bringing people in, to show what we are able to do, will bring them back. And if you don’t think that? Then unfortunately I think you’re not on the same page as a lot of newer restaurants where we want to make Bethel a grander place. We want to make Bethel a place where it’s a destination not just an out-of-the-way small town, and there has to be a way to try and make it both ways.”

Mannion said, “As someone who is part owner in this [Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery] and owns the Green Grunion, I can only speak for this experience, we didn’t drop it all for Food Truck Fridays, if anything, with my business there, selling half of the menu here, didn’t drop at all. Now I’m not speaking for everyone.”

“So I guess the thing is,” Mannion said, “BeerFest, you want to do your thing, it’s a Chamber-run event, but why are you messing with something that started out as a small Farmer’s Market about five years ago? It was myself, Billy’s Barbeque, which no longer exists, and Daily Fair. So it was small, and we did a small little thing, and then people, residents, loved the food truck, so then it grew exponentially.”

“BeerFest, you want to do your thing, it’s a Chamber-run event, but why are you messing with something that started out as a small Farmer’s Market about five years ago?”

—Paul Mannion

Mannion said, “He [Koltz] also said in the article that it’s a free band, which isn’t true, all the trucks pay $100 to have that band play, and that takes right out of our pocket.”

“There is the health permit fee [$115] … but the thing is this, is there a hidden tax that we have to pay for? No. But at the end of the day, is the point to nickel and dime everyone who is wanting to try something new? Or is the point to evolve, again, in an investing and evolving area, again, a 4th generation Bethelite, so some changes I don’t like either, but at the end of the day it is about making Bethel for everyone,” said Mannion.

When asked how payments are handled for Food Truck Friday, Mannion said, “It’s through someone who helps out with the town basically.” … “The band isn’t free and the town doesn’t pay for the band. We pay for the band. So somebody who sets up the event, I believe it’s Dionne.” he said. “The health department is a contract … but regarding the band payment, we do it by cash.” … “It’s an agreement between all the food trucks. Someone comes around at the end of it and says, ‘I need a hundred dollars.’ “

Mannion said he feels “lucky” to be able to participate in Food Truck Friday events, and that even though it eventually came down to the food trucks having to pay the bands, he doesn’t mind. “Real quick, there are zero guarantees on our end,” he said, “All we’re trying to do is provide something to a town that doesn’t have anything like that. That’s truly it.”

Mannion said, “So when people say, or when this gentleman says, to the effect of, ‘Oh they’re not paying their taxes’ or whatever, that’s the other thing, just to simplify this real quick, Chef Zip for a fact, and myself for a fact, pay property taxes as a business in Bethel, others do not.” … “Again, and do your research. Go down to the tax department and find out what I pay for my property tax on the truck. So I just paid over $1500 for my property tax.”

“The biggest issue is people who have no idea, railing against it because of all these restaurants, that I’ve never even heard of, are up in arms,” Mannion said.

Here’s the thing, the reason why I gave you these two [Chef Zip], myself and him both, again, pay property taxes as a business in Bethel. So the other trucks, a lot of the other trucks do not, and I understand that, but I guess my bigger thing is, it doesn’t matter, it shouldn’t matter, in my opinion, it’s six days out of the year for three hours, it really shouldn’t matter, in my opinion, but if you are going to start spreading rumors, especially as someone who is supposed to represent businesses downtown, and as someone who owns a business downtown … I just don’t understand that concept. He’s driving a wedge into an idea that he should be all into.”

“…if you are going to start spreading rumors, especially as someone who is supposed to represent businesses downtown, and as someone who owns a business downtown … I just don’t understand that concept. He’s driving a wedge into an idea that he should be all into.”

—Paul Mannion

As a Chamber member I understand people having gripes … but it shouldn’t fall into popularity or political … or even if you’re not going to please everybody or your friends or the place you go to eat even, it’s trying to do the best for EVERYONE.” … “It should be totally neutral, I would think,” Mannion said.

We asked Mannion if he was a chamber member and he said “no” and clarified, ‘I could IMAGINE as a chamber member.” So we then asked, ‘Why are you not a chamber member?’ and he answered, “You tell me.”

“My bigger gripe is, I was never in a fight with the chamber at all. I never had any gripe with them, they decide, hey that’s cool, I could decide to be with them or not.”

*****

Carey Favreau owns the Chef Zip Exchange food truck, and says he was not called to do the BeerFest this year. “Nobody made phone calls or there was no request out,” he said, as in other years when they received a call from Dawn Fawcett of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce. “We figured we’d be one of the first ones on the list because we did it last year,” Favreau said, “Due to the fact that we have to book months out in advance, we just went ahead and booked everything that we could, and we kind of forgot all about the BeerFest.” “I actually made a call in about the SummerFest [Bethel Chamber] and was given the answer of, ‘Gimme a call and we can talk to you later.’ He said, “Then that [SummerFest] was never rescheduled.”

Regarding Food Truck Fridays, Favreau said, “I reached out to Dionne probably in February, because that’s when we start booking up, and I asked to be in every one of the Food Truck Fridays.” He said they like to get their paperwork done early, regarding the health department permit from Bethel, which is one fee for “the entire Food Truck Friday event schedule” and then Bethel requires a $100 fee, he said, that goes to the “Town of Bethel.” He pays by check and “it is given to Dionne Craig who comes around to collect at the end of each Food Truck Friday,” he said, the fee is “for the right to actually participate in the food truck Festival.”

*****

We spoke to Rocco Selmanti, part owner of Portofino Restaurant and Wine Bar (located at 213 Greenwood Avenue in Bethel) and he felt they were a different type of business than what Food Truck Friday vendors offer at the event, as they are more of a sit-down-dinner establishment, he said. “It doesn’t affect my business, I have a different clientele, sit down people, like that. It’s totally different.” Although he felt there could be differences in having food trucks in a small town vs. a larger location like Danbury, he said, “It doesn’t affect us because we have a totally different clientele. It’s not like finger food, walk around, you know. My dishes are totally different. You have to be sitting down having a glass of wine, a bottle of wine, you know.”

*****

Laura Vasile, Director of Food Protection at the Bethel Health Department, told us there is an extensive application food vendors must submit before being allowed to participate in town events. This 8-page application is an “Application for Temporary/Seasonal Food Service Operation” she said.

Vendors can apply for a $45 “Temporary Food License” permit, valid for 1- 14 days (consecutive) or a $115 “Seasonal Food License” permit, if wanting 15 days or over, the latter being what most food vendors do who want to participate in all the Food Truck Fridays, Vasile said. These temporary food permits “also cover food booths” at events too, and cover any events on all other locations in town too, not just on the municipal center lawn, Vasile said.

Regarding obtaining a year-long permit, Vasile said, “I don’t issue food truck vendor licenses here in the Town of Bethel. Each jurisdiction, each municipality, has to decide which vendors they want to allow in their town or who they don’t want to. That would be the Code of the Town of Bethel.”

When Bethel Advocate asked who is in charge of that, Vasile said, “You could call the First Selectman’s office. I don’t know if anyone’s ever asked them formally to haven an overall vendor ordinance.” She said, “That’s not my decision as a director of health. Leaders of a town, that’s what a Board of Selectman would decide … Planning & Zoning may have a role in it too, I’m not sure.”

“What we’re issuing is a temporary food license or a seasonal food license. It’s up to the applicant to make sure that the event sponsors say, ‘Yes you can be in our event’ and ‘Yes we accept you.’ Our part is about food protection of the public and this is required by the regulations of the state,” Vasile said.

Dionne Craig declined speaking to us about this topic, and Brad Koltz did not answer repeated attempts to contact him, but we did speak to First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker.

First Selectman Knickerbocker confirmed that Dionne Craig is the person handling Food Truck Fridays events. He also said that every vendor has to have a permit displayed in their window at events. “This is something that Mr. Koltz got wrong,” Knickerbocker said. “In addition to the annual permit the food trucks are charged every time they come to a Food Truck Friday, like every single time they have to pay.” Knickerbocker said that it is $100 per event and $50 for dessert trucks per event, “because they don’t have the same dollar volume as the other ones,” he said.

Bethel Advocate asked, “What does the money pay for?” Knickerbocker replied, “That goes for the band, for staff time, like Park & Rec staff to clean up and stuff, because this is not funded by taxpayer dollars at all. And there’s also donations that come in, you know, the Sunday evening concerts we’ve had for the last 22 years I think, Food Truck Friday’s and the Sunday Concerts are all funded from the same kitty, so that includes donations from sponsors … there’s a number of sponsors, and the fees the food trucks pay also goes into that and pays for the cost of it.”

Bethel Advocate asked Knickerbocker about confirmation that the food trucks are owned by a combination of Bethel residents and out-of-towners. “I have no idea who owns what,” he said, “My personal opinion is that’s neither here nor there. There are many people who operate businesses in Bethel who don’t live in Bethel. We don’t really have any right to ask them where they live before they do business here … that’s not something that we really have anything to say about,” Knickerbocker said.

Bethel Advocate asked if Knickerbocker knew what caused the controversy from Mr. Koltz. Knickerbocker said, “No I don’t. Wish I did.”

Bethel Advocate asked First Selectman Knickerbocker how he felt about the Food Truck Friday events and the BeerFest event and he said, “I think both events are positive for the town. I have spoken to people at both of them, over the last few years, Food Truck Fridays and especially BeerFest, and I know very clearly from speaking to people, that these events draw people from out of town who then come back to Bethel.”

“In terms of economic development,” Knickerbocker said, “I’ve spoken to people … two couples from Ridgefield whose friends had invited them the year before, and they say, ‘We come to Bethel all the tome now, our favorite restaurant is The Note.’ ” … “These are both visible events, they tend to draw people into town so they can discover what a great town Bethel is, I think they both serve that purpose.”

First Selectman Knickerbocker had read Koltz’s editorial and he said, My opinion is it’s completely inaccurate. I mean, I’ve spoken to restaurant owners, not every one of them of course, I’ve spoken to servers and said what is business like? One of them that operates a bar said, ‘Food Truck Friday nights, right after the music shuts down, we’re slammed [busy].”

Upon observation during these events it is easy to see that Famous Pizza and Cream ‘n’ Sugar ice cream establishment are very busy during Food truck Friday and BeerFest overflows of the crowd, being in closest walking distance.

We spoke to many individuals and the overall opinion is that these events bring many people into Bethel that might have otherwise not known about the town and businesses there.

The Food Truck Friday and BeerFest events are over for the year and we have no indication, from the parties involved, as to what will happen with the events next year. We do know that these events are usually the most heavily attended events in Bethel other than the Memorial Day Parade and perhaps the WinterFest, the holiday celebration which now has it’s own controversy about the religious displays. There could be groups working to overturn the Board of Selectman final decision on that but nothing is confirmed for publication yet. Read Bethel Advocate for the latest updates.

VIEW TWO PUBLIC STATEMENTS IN FULL BELOW.

*****
BRAD KOLTZ editorial and Facebook post in public forum:

“Editorial: It’s Time For Bethel To Get Serious About Supporting Local Business

“Bethel is blessed with a vibrant retail community, and a diverse and bountiful dining scene downtown, in Stony Hill and in Grassy Plain. But these businesses need our support. They face tremendous obstacles, and unfortunately sometimes otherwise well meaning folks place even more obstacles in their way.

“Restaurants are a perfect example.

“Imagine if the Town promoted an event that every other week brought in a half dozen or more out of town businesses to sell hardware in front of a local hardware store. Or to cut hair near local barbershops. Or to sell books a block away from our local book stores. Or to sell toys near our downtown shops. We’d all be outraged. Yet that is exactly what happens every other week in the summer, except it’s out of town food trucks taking business away from the more than 50 local restaurants in Bethel.

“Bethel has over 50 eateries, representing a huge array of tastes. Yet instead of highlighting the amazing diversity and selection of these businesses, who pay taxes, who employ hundreds of local people, who buy goods and services from other local businesses, who attract customers from other towns, who generously donate to our schools and other causes whenever asked, and who keep more than 50 retail locations from becoming an empty blight upon our community, instead of focusing on them, we bring in mobile competitors from other communities to literally take the customers and food from their tables. The Town aggressively promotes this biweekly assault on it’s largest base of businesses and calls it Food Truck Friday, and throws in a free concert to celebrate the devastation.

“Here is a list from the Town website of the food vendors at this Summer-long event, and where they say they come from: Blue Pig, Danbury, Big Green Eggs, Woodbury, Chef Zip Exchange, Danbury, Cinnamon Churros, Danbury, Cookie Cloud 9, Roxbury, DrewBaq, Trumbull, Fork in the Road, Danbury, Green Grunion, Danbury, Ma & Pa’s Traveling Kitchen, Danbury, Polar Pete’s, Trumbull, Rice & Beans, Danbury, Salsa Fresca, Danbury, Sonny’s Grinders, Southbury, Szabo’s Seafood, Shelton, Weenielynns, Danbury. See any from Bethel? We didn’t, either, although the Scotty Fund does sell lemonade.

“These out-of-town food trucks pay a one time seasonal fee of $115 to the Health Department and no other taxes to Bethel.

“We love a party with food as much as anyone else, but we would prefer to see the Town come together to sponsor a regular celebration of our local restaurants and not facilitate and promote more than a dozen out of town competitors who hurt so many vital local businesses. Bethel needs a healthy base of local business to maintain our charming downtown and retail centers, to keep our community healthy, prosperous and safe, and to maintain property values. We need to help our local business. Importing out-of-town competitors hurts everyone.

“Shop Local and Eat Local means keeping all of our local businesses, and by extension Bethel, a vibrant and healthy community.”

*****

DIONNE CRAIG’S Facebook post in public forum:

Hi Everyone

My name is Dionne Craig, I am the Office Administrator for the First Selectman’s Office and I organize Food Truck Friday. I wanted to give everyone some clarification to comments being made about FTF and the motives behind the First Selectman’s Office. Several years ago, FS Matt Knickerbocker wanted to create an event on the Municipal Lawn to bring the community together and use the lawn as an open space for people to gather. Part of the vision was to create a place the community would like to meet and also an event that would attract attention to the downtown area. We started a Farmers Market on Thursday evening, June- August, which included local produce, meats, flowers and a couple Food Trucks. I did reach out to the Chamber and invite any local restaurants and businesses to participate and we had a couple that did. We did this for a few years but regardless of marketing and spreading the word the Farmer’s Market was never fully embraced by the community. We did notice that the food trucks did very well and seemed to be a favorite part of the event. As time went by, we had difficulty in keeping farmers involved with the market because of low attendance and it then turned into the “Community Market” with local vendors and the same Food Trucks. Again, the food trucks did well but the vendors started backing out because it wasn’t profitable enough for them. Being involved with this, from the beginning and seeing what attracted the crowds and brought the people together, I asked Matt if we could move the event to Friday evenings from 5-8pm, call it 1stand 3rd Friday, provide live music and invite Food Trucks. We only did 2 of these events at the end of the summer as a trial run and they were HUGE successes. The Food Trucks have to pay Health Department fees and a fee to the Town for each event they participate in.

Every year that we have had an event on the Municipal Lawn, Farmer’s Market, Community Market or Food Truck Friday, I have always reached out to the Chamber of Commerce and invited them to play whatever role in the event that would help “spotlight” the downtown businesses and restaurants.

In the beginning we started with 4 trucks and the events were so well attended that the lines were not realistic; I have been trying to find the balance as the event grows; more people hear about the event and attend. It is difficult to find the right balance, you want people to want to attend, have options for food and not have to wait for hours but you also want the vendors at the event to find it profitable and want to come back. I take the opportunity to walk around at every event and meet people, ask questions and see if there are ideas on making the evening better. There is never a FTF that I have attended that I don’t see pizza boxes where people have chosen to avoid the lines order a pizza and enjoy the community and music.

I have come to love FTF, not for the Food Trucks, although I think they do help attract the people, but for what I see happening on our Municipal Lawn every 1st & 3rd Friday, June – August, 5-8pm. I see community gathering, bringing lawn chairs and blankets, setting up space on the lawn to just “hang out” with friends, family and sometimes neighbors they have never met before. I see parents have a “safe spot” to just let their kids be kids and run around and play. I see people from every generation with smiles on their faces greeting one another and happy to be a part of an event that doesn’t happen too often but is something nice to look forward to.

The letter that was written by Director of Chamber of Commerce Brad Koltz in his paper and FB page, The Bethel Gazette, and especially the statement “The Town aggressively promotes this biweekly assault on it’s largest base of business and call it Food Truck Friday, and throws in a free concert to celebrate the devastation” could not be more untrue. I have consistently reached out to the Chamber, year after year and asked if any local restaurants would like to participate. I have offered the lawn as a place to set up a table and share the different highlights of downtown Bethel. I have shared the idea of creating events before or after FTF and passing out coupons or fliers at the event. I am open to anything and will do whatever is within my capacity to help promote downtown Bethel. With that being said, I have always reached out and worked with the Directors of the Chamber, Bobbi Jo and Heather were wonderful to work with, because I thought that was what the Director of the Chamber was suppose to do. It’s not my place to overstep Mr. Koltz authority and create events the Chamber should be sponsoring. I also don’t understand how if Mr. Koltz is so passionate about this then why when I called him at the beginning of the season to discuss or sent him emails to try and work on making the situation better he didn’t have any ideas but he does choose at the end of the season to use his paper as a way to only tell part of the story and create discontent and friction between Town Hall and our business community.

In the end, I love Bethel, I respect our local businesses and restaurants and I try and frequent them often. I am always open to constructive criticism and figuring out a way to make Bethel the best it can be. I believe that FTF is a great event, I’ve met too many people, business and restaurant owners tell me so. With that said, I sympathize with a restaurant owner that doesn’t agree, if there is something that we can do together to make it better I am open for discussion.

*****

PHOTOS OF PAST EVENTS:

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