MISHAWAKA — The city’s social clubs are asking for clearer answers on Mishawaka’s efforts to begin a permitting process for anyone who wants to put on a large event here.
On Monday, the Common Council’s public health and safety committee heard from both the clubs and the city on what’s included in a proposed amusement and entertainment ordinance.
The city wants a way to explore and evaluate large public and private events before they occur. The move came after officials said oversight was lacking following a mass shooting in June outside of Heavenly Goat Brewing Co. in Heritage Square that left Victor Kyle Jr., 26, dead and four others injured.
As written, social clubs, like the BK Club and the DiLoreto clubs, would have to file permits for events in their facilities if they would have more than 100 people in attendance. The permit fee has not been established, but officials have discussed $20 to $25 each as a possibility.
For the BK club, a nonprofit that hosts 100 events a year, the permitting process would be cost prohibitive and cumbersome, a spokesman said.
Joe Velleman, treasurer of the BK Club, said the all-volunteer group would have to rethink its business model, especially when it comes to such events like funeral meals where a family asks to rent the club just days in advance.
Much of the two-hour meeting Monday was spent interpreting the ordinance proposal that was introduced to the council last month, but was ultimately tabled indefinitely.
Council members want to revise what the city’s legal department called “a working document” to address the complexities in trying to ensure safety at large events while not burdening the people putting the events on.
“We have zero desire to be the graduation party and the wedding police,” Mayor Dave Wood said about the proposed ordinance. “We are not trying to put burdens on citizens and businesses.”
As currently written, the ordinance would require any person or business holding an indoor or outdoor event “open to a large number of people” to receive a temporary event permit from the Board of Public Works and Safety.
The organizer would have to apply for a permit at least 30 days in advance and get the approval of the city’s police, fire and engineering departments. Organizers would also be required to notify adjacent property owners.
Holding a large event without a permit would result in a $2,500 fine for a first offense, and a $7,500 fine for subsequent offenses.
The ordinance does not detail the number of attendees that would trigger a permit requirement if an event is hosted at a restaurant or business. But it specifies that gatherings at houses or apartments would require a permit if “it is an event that is over 100 people or impacts traffic and access to the public right of way.”
Jeff Rea, president and CEO of the South Bend Regional chamber of Commerce, said the ordinance needs to define what is a “temporary” event.
“As an organization that puts on 150 events per year, We need to have a better definition of temporary events, ” Rea said. “It is not clear whether something like weddings should or not be permitted.”
Several council members expressed support for possible exemptions for groups whose main business is events. Members also said any revisions would have to spell out which property owners would fall under the permitting process.
Police Chief Ken Witkowski explained that following the Heavenly Goat homicide, the city searched for cities that had ordinances for large events. He said the goal was to set up a way to scrutinize events with city departments to ensure public safety and possibly head off the potential for problems.
Gregg Hixenbaugh, council president, said it was his hope for the council and the city to offer revisions to the proposed ordinance and share them publicly before the council takes it up again, possibly by the end of this year.
Email South Bend Tribune reporter Greg Swiercz at [email protected].