Support builds for Elks after Oktoberfest permit denial

Crowds in the thousands flock annually to both the Festival of the Sea and the Elks' Oktoberfest, held on the same day for the last 20 years. FILE PHOTO

POINT PLEASANT BEACH — A simmering controversy over the denial of a permit for the Point Pleasant Beach Elks to hold their Oktoberfest on the same day as the Festival of the Sea has flared up in a public forum and on social media.

The denial, based on security concerns, had been made by the borough council in mid-April.

Last Saturday, former mayor Vincent Barrella, a member of Point Pleasant Elks Lodge 1698, confronted borough officials at the Non-Resident Taxpayers Advisory Committee [NRTAC] meeting.

“I don’t get it,” Mr. Barrella said, addressing Mayor Stephen Reid and Chief of Police Joseph Michigan at the June 9 forum. “Why would you kill the principal fundraiser of a charity, make it impossible for that charity to continue its charitable works and possibly kill that charity off completely?”

Mr. Barrella, who has been joined in his criticism by former mayor Jack Pasola, underlined his position in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

“To be fair, there may be legitimate security concerns, but those have not been articulated. Simply incanting ‘security’ is not acceptable, not when the action taken threatens the core mission of the Point Pleasant Elks, and perhaps the very existence of the Lodge,” Mr. Barrella posted on Facebook.

By Wednesday, the post had been shared close to 300 times.

The vote to deny the special events permit came at the April 17 council meeting. Councilman Paul Kanitra cast the only dissenting vote.

At the non-resident taxpayers forum, Mr. Barrella charged that the council had effectively “declared war on special needs kids and veterans” by denying the Oktoberfest permit, adding, “because that’s in fact what you did when you killed the Elks Oktoberfest at the seafood festival.”

According to Tom Watters, former exalted ruler of the Point Pleasant Elks, Oktoberfest draws a crowd of 5,000 to 10,000 and raises $25,000 to $30,000 to support Elks’ programs for veterans and children with special needs.

“I don’t want to hear that it’s about security,” Mr. Barrella said at the June 9 forum, “because if you don’t have enough cops, hire some more, and if you need to move them around, kill the fireworks and let this go on.”

“This year we’re just not going to be able to do it,” Mayor Reid said in response.
“I had a chance to meet with the head of the Elks two months ago so their Oktoberfest can take place at any other time, just not that weekend. And it’s not just about security, it’s about all the people who are here and the people come first,” the mayor added. “Safety comes first.”

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