Sparks Special Events Pricing Upsets Some Small Businesses
Some Victorian Square business owners are upset over set pricing during special events.
Victorian Saloon is one of a string of bars in the heart of downtown Sparks. Like the other bars, it relies on special event season to make a profit. The Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off starts in less than two weeks. It's the biggest event for the Victorian Square bars.
"It's a party," Johnny Eastwick, Victorian Saloon owner said. "Everybody's having a good time. It's always good."
Eastwick is upset with the city of Sparks though, saying it is forcing him to raise his prices during special events, which he says rips off his customers.
"For 20 years, the Victorian Saloon has been serving a good drink at a fair price and now they're asking us to double and sometimes triple our prices during the events," Eastwick said. "I was charging four dollars for a 16-ounce beer and they wanted me to charge seven dollars. I charge two dollars for a glass of lemonade. They wanted me to charge seven dollars."
Bars and restaurants on Victorian Square can rent the patio area in front of their buildings. It gives customers an outdoor area to eat and drink. Eastwick decided not to rent it anymore because he would either have to raise his prices or stop serving through his front window during special events. City workers hauled away his patio furniture, Wednesday morning.
"I was pretty shocked when I saw the video footage of them taking my patio away," Eastwick said. "It seemed petty and I'm disappointed in my city leaders right now."
Bars can still sell drinks inside the building at their own prices, during special events, but they have to charge the event's set prices.
Doug Thornley is the Assistant City Manager of Sparks. He says the city never sets prices or forces businesses to set prices. During special events, it is up to the promoter.
"The promoter event sets the prices for those outdoor sales and the bars and restaurants," Thornley said. "If they want to participate in that aspect of it, they need to comply with the wishes of the promoter."
Each participant of the special event pays a fee to join. Some business owners say that helps pay for security, police and additional trash pick-ups. Businesses with patios do not have to participate, but they cannot serve alcohol outside if they don't, during the event. During regular days and hours, people can still use the patios.
"The outdoor patio space simply allows him to designate an area outside his business for his patrons to enjoy a drink, enjoy food in the sidewalk space without running afoul of open container laws," Thornley said.
Eastwick says nobody should be able to tell him how much money to charge for drinks. He hopes he can come to a compromise with the city or promoters.
"Just tear up that piece of paper," Eastwick said. "Let us charge our customers what we think is fair and everything will be fine."