PORT CANAVERAL, Florida -- A local seafood festival that has been held sporadically over the past few decades at different locations in Brevard County came back to Port Canaveral this year - but not without some controversy.
The event was sponsored by the Tourist Development Council (TDC) which collects a bed tax on hotels, motels, and short-term rentals. According to the event's website, admission was free for guests staying at a "Local Space Coast Hotel" but $12 for the general public.
The Port Canaveral Seafood Festival's website instructed hotel guests to inquire for the free tickets at the hotels' front desk with one ticket allotted per hotel guest per night. The seafood festival's website also provided a link to book a room through the TDC's visitspacecoast website. However, there was not a similar offer for guests staying at short-term rentals who also have to pay the bed tax.
Brevard Times reached out to TDC Executive Diretor Rob Varley to ask why guests staying at short-term rentals were not included in the free admission offer when the TDC is asking the Brevard County Commission to toughen up its collection of taxes from short-term rental owners. Mr. Varley did not respond to the inquiry.
Port Canaveral CEO John Walsh did respond and wanted to make clear that the Port Canaveral Authority was not involved in the event's admission fee structure. "The seafood festival is at Port Canaveral but not a Port Canaveral event put on by the Port Authority," Walsh said in an email. "It is organized by and run by the Port Canaveral Association which is all the restaurants and private businesses who do business in and around the port."
"Port Canaveral remains a committed good member of the community and provided the land and our facilities for free and provided sponsorship contribution up to $15,000 to cover security and fire coverage and EMT support to assure all could have a safe good time." Walsh added. "We also provided discounted admission to the Exploration Tower as part of that charged admission. The request to hold it at the port was from the tenant association and it is run entirely by them. The port supports community events and contributed only but we do not set admission policy or charges. The private organizers of the event set all of these standards."
Brevard Times also reached out to the event organizer, Larry Mullins, regarding the fee structure. He did not respond.