During the April 6th meeting of Conshohocken’s Borough Council, the council members voted 6-1 to deny a special event application from the Conshohocken Plymouth Whitemarsh Rotary (CPW Rotary) to hold the Conshohocken Beer Festival at A. A. Garthwaite Stadium. Please note that MorethanTheCurve.com organizes and markets the event for the organization.
Voting against the application were Adrian Serna (Ward 2, pictured top left), Council Vice President Tina Sokolowski (Ward 3, pictured top center), Anita Barton (Ward 4, pictured top right), Kathleen Kingsley (Ward 5, pictured bottom left), Stacy Ellam (Ward 6, pictured bottom center), and Council President Colleen Leonard (Ward 7, pictured bottom right).
Voting in support of the application was Karen Tutino, who represents Ward 1.
The motion followed a short presentation from members of the CPW Rotary and a few questions of the organization’s representatives from members of the borough council. The event has been held at A. A. Garthwaite Stadium in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. In 2015, due to scheduling, it was held at The Proving Grounds, a sports field facility down Conshohocken Road. It was not held in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
The application sought to rent the stadium for the festival in 2022, 2023, and 2024. The previous agreement with the borough also covered three years.
After the presentation, Councilmember Adrian Serna made a motion to deny the application, which was seconded by Councilmember Stacy Ellam, and a vote was taken. It happened very quickly with no debate among the members. Councilmember Tutino looked visibly shocked that the event had been denied.
When the application was filed, the CPW Rotary was told it would appear on the March 2nd agenda. However, when that agenda was published, the festival was not included. A week later, Borough Manager Stephanie Cecco informed the CPW Rotary that the event was not going to be allowed at the stadium.
After reviewing the application, the CPW Rotary contacted Cecco and pointed out that they were being denied a vote that was part of the stated guidelines outlined by the event application. See the text below (emphasis added by MoreThanTheCurve.com):
Special event requests must be formally approved by Conshohocken Borough Council at one of their regularly scheduled monthly meetings. Depending on the timing of when the application is received and processed, the event request will be placed on the next scheduled meeting agenda for discussion and vote. After a decision has been determined the applicant will receive permission or a denial letter.
So why was the CPW Rotary initially told that they could not hold the festival at the stadium without appearing on an agenda and a vote not being taken? Did members of the borough council know this popular charitable event was being denied by the administration? Was Cecco instructed to do this by a specific member or members of the borough council? If so, when did this conversation take place? Obviously, Tutino was not privy to it.
As you may remember, the Conshohocken Bears (the area youth football team) had some issues with the attendees of its games causing a problem at the stadium and in the surrounding neighborhood during the 2020 season. After that season, the borough held meetings with the leadership of the organization and made the use of the stadium contingent on the Bears following a code of conduct.
The CPW Rotary has never been approached by the borough before, during, or after an event about behavioral issues. All of the feedback had been positive.
At the conclusion of the April 6th meeting during the public comment period, members of the public and the CPW Rotary asked for an explanation and no member of the borough council was willing to provide an answer. Council President Leonard would only state that it was a decision that was under the authority of the council.
The CPW Rotary with MoreThanTheCurve.com’s assistance has started the process of finding an alternative venue.
MoreThanTheCurve.com is going to have a lot more about this. Until then, please consider doing the following.
– Share your thoughts on this decision with members of the borough council? You can find their contact information here.
– Have an idea for a nearby venue? Email email@example.com with your thoughts. There is a working list.
– Want to help with this event? Consider joining the CPW Rotary. You can find details about the organization here.
Correction – A previous version of this article stated Council President Colleen Leonard made the motion.