TARPON SPRINGS – Last year’s inaugural Salsa Cinco de Mayo on Athens was the first event to be held off Dodecanese Boulevard, the main strip on the Sponge Docks, which hosts everything from concerts to festivals to parades.
According to Tarpon Springs Merchants Association officials, the intent of the Cinco de Mayo festival was to introduce visitors to another side of the docks by holding an event on Athens Street. A quieter side street, Athens features a few shops and restaurants, including Costas and Mama’s, as well as residential neighborhoods.
Noise and other complaints, however, nearly forced the second edition of Salsa Cinco de Mayo, scheduled for Saturday, May 4, to relocate.
“We’ve received many complaints about the DJ and the lights and the noise going too late in the night,” Mayor Chris Alahouzos said at the March 26 commission meeting. “There are a lot of residents and businesses around there and some of them don’t want that kind of activity in the neighborhood.”
Before any discussion on the item could begin, the mayor revealed a compromise had been reached when the merchants association agreed to several changes that would allow the event to continue on Athens Street. They include: moving the DJ booth from Hope and Athens streets to Athens and Dodecanese; moving the stage to the middle of Costas parking lot; lowering the sound; moving the portable toilets to a better location; eliminating the light show, and making sure police are aware of residents that need access from Hope Street to the alley way.
“Looking at all the changes provided to us by the merchants association, I think it’s a good compromise and I’m in favor for it,” Alahouzos said.
Commissioner Rea Sieber, a former merchants association president, praised the merchants association for its efforts and noted there was a petition signed by “people who were for this event and wanted it on Athens Street because Athens doesn’t have as many visitors as Dodecanese does.”
She also encouraged the businesses on Athens Street to stay open later during the event.
With that the item passed, 4-0.
After the meeting, parties on both sides spoke about the compromise.
“The complainants reached out and talked to us and told us the issues and we said we can fix that, and we did,” merchants association board member Sherry Wendt said. “I wish that happened all the time.”
“Compromise works wonders,” event and membership coordinator Carol Rodriguez added. “The lesson is if someone has a complaint, they can always come to us and let us know and we will try to work it out. We’re not trying to alienate anyone or hurt their business. We’re trying to help the residents and business owners of Tarpon Springs.”
Alahouzos said: “I am pleased the merchants association worked with us to make the adjustments, the changes that will not disturb the residents. As I said we received many complaints, and I think these adjustments will help make this a very successful event. It was good to see everybody working together to resolve this. I think it’s a win-win.”