Vote on Elksfest permit tabled by council

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POINT PLEASANT BEACH — The vote to approve or deny an application for a social-affairs permit by Point Pleasant Elks Lodge 1698 to hold its annual Elksfest on the same day as the Point Pleasant Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Festival of the Sea in September was tabled Tuesday evening as officials wished to conduct further discussions with leaders of both parties.

A discussion on the permit was held at the July 6 meeting of the Point Pleasant Beach Borough Council, with nearly two hours of comment provided by governing body members and residents both supporting and expressing their concerns. Prior to Tuesday’s meeting Chief of Police Joseph A. Michigan recommended the denial of the permit for the third year in a row.

“I want to make a motion to pull this off the agenda for now pending meetings with the chief, chamber of commerce, three members of the governing body [Andy Cortes, Douglas R. Vitale and Caryn S. Byrnes], and the Elks too, to see if we can negotiate a compromise,” Councilman Robert A. Santanello said.

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With Council President Arlene Testa the sole ‘no’ vote, the vote will now be held at a future meeting of the governing body, as will the vote on the social-affairs permit application by the chamber to have a wine garden at its festival this fall, pending further discussion as well. 

“I would like to ask everybody … that this not be just an exercise in showmanship,” Mayor Paul M. Kanitra said.

“I guarantee you this will be an open, honest conversation,” Mr. Santanello told him.

The chance to have further discussion with local leaders was welcomed by the nearly dozen Elks members in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We welcome the opportunity. This is what we asked for all along,” Treasurer Ann Marie O’Hare said.

The mayor and council first opted in 2018 to not reconsider the denial of the permit for the lodge to host its annual Elksfest, formally known as Oktoberfest, one of its biggest fundraisers of the year, on the same weekend as the annual Festival of the Sea, which draws an estimated 50,000 plus people to the borough. 

Oktoberfest had been a part of the festival for decades until the application was denied, drawing widespread protest. The event is a way for the Elks to raise funds for special-needs children, veterans, scholarships to local high school seniors and other community support.

The lodge had received an outpouring of support and neighboring Point Pleasant Borough approved the use of Arnold Avenue Park, just around the bend from the lodge’s headquarters, to host the event in 2018 and in 2019, when the permit was denied again.

“I want to thank the Elks for coming here tonight … but also thank you to the nearly 600 people who have called, emailed, texted, messaged on Facebook, liked posts and commented in various ways about their support for bringing the Elks back home,” Mayor Kanitra said.

“Two years ago the council voted to kick the Elks out of their longtime home at the Seafood Festival … even before public comment began the mayor at the time looked out at the sea of people who had come here to support the Elks and proclaimed that no matter what they said, there would be no changing of the council’s minds. I urge each and every one of you up here today on the dais to not be so closed minded and to not make the same mistakes of the past … now is the time to bring the Elks back.”

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