To whom it may concern,

 

We, several local business owners and entrepreneurs (Curtis Hall, Jesse Darling, Ron Morairty), are writing to withdraw multiple applications for numerous permits and licenses submitted over the preceding 6 months related to multiple projects, both independent and loosely associated through similar ownership groups or partner cross-over. In this communication, we are copying our neighbors, partners, and other involved parties so they’re aware of all of this as well.

 

The projects include: 

 
  1. A two day, outdoor, family friendly St. Patricks day festival at 160 Lithia Way, Ashland, Oregon 97520, put on by Main Street Production LLC, a company founded by Curtis Hall and Jesse Darling for this purpose. The event had a two day lineup of local and regional musicians, sponsorship from local companies both small and large, and the involvement and support of neighboring residents, businesses, non-profit organizations including the Maslow Project and Rockafairy (a Medford based non-profit that provides music education services to disadvantaged youth in the Rogue Valley).
  2. A related 5k charity “Shamrock Run,” benefitting the Maslow Project in Medford, Oregon, a non-profit organization. The 5k Run was intended to be held in conjunction with the St. Pats event. The intent of both the festival and the run were to raise money for this non-profit that works with at risk and homeless youth in the Rogue Valley.
  3. Romeo Theatre Project-a proposed event space and wedding hall located at 139 E Main Street, Ashland Oregon. Primary owners were Curtis and Ron Morairty, also owners of Trapdoor Bar and Grill. In addition to being a for-profit venue, the Romeo Theatre had partnered with volunteers from Rockafairy to offer free music education space for disadvantaged youth in the Rogue Valley.

Permits/licenses to withdraw, and why:

 
  1. St. Patrick’s day event on March 17th and 18th of 2023Please withdraw all of the permits for this event, including the Will Dodge Way street closure, the noise permits, temporary liquor sales license, and planning department event zoning permit.
    1. Despite the City of Ashland Public Works Department processing our expedited application for the street closure, noise permit, and special use zoning permit relatively quickly, the city held our temporary liquor license application in limbo from the date of submission, January 3rd, 2023, until February 24th, 2023. At this point, Aaron Anderson from the Planning Department took over and began requesting more information from us and the property owner to fulfill the requirements needed to issue the temp license. By the time we got this new information request completed by the property owner, Doug Irvine, who was in Maui at the time, the window for OLCC to complete the packet had narrowed to the point where we could not in good faith proceed with the event. Had we proceeded, we ran a serious risk of not being able to sell alcohol at the event, losing or having to reimburse our sponsorships from the various companies we partnered with, as well as not generating enough revenue to cover the overhead and raise money for our non-profit partners.
    1. We submitted an expedited, relatively complete permit packet on January 3rd (with some follow up and additional information requested and received during the following weeks) and were reassured that someone would contact us, most likely the City Recorder or someone from the Finance department to follow up in the coming days to complete and issue the temp sales license, which after being approved by the city of Ashland, still needs 2-4 weeks of time with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to be processed and given the final approval. We applied with plenty of time for the city to review it, especially after paying expedited fees for doing so. We did not receive a city approval until exactly two weeks prior to the event, leaving us with a high likelihood of it not being processed by the state, who typically takes 2-4 weeks to complete their end of it.
    1. The failure to complete and receive the temporary sales license in a reasonable amount of time was not due to a lack of effort from Main Street Production LLC. We sent numerous follow up emails, more than a half dozen, to everyone involved, especially the City Recorder, who replied multiple times with “its in process, should be done today or tomorrow, will let you know,” despite it not being handed off to the Planning Department for 52 days and not completed until more than 56 days had elapsed from our original application. I would like to add that we paid the fees for all of this process within an hour or two of receiving notification that they were due. Every step of the way, we responded or completed our requirements promptly, either within hours or a few days at most. The city did not reciprocate our sense of urgency, despite an expedited application fee.
  1. 5k Charity Shamrock Run street closure route approval, police traffic control officer usage, etc.
    1. The festival and the run were concurrent and linked events operated by the same production company. Their success or failure was inextricably tied together. Without a liquor license (which still, by the way hasn’t been issued as of March 12th) we couldn’t in good faith spend more thousands of dollars to promote and host the festival, which meant that the primary advertising for the run wouldn’t succeed either. Many of our alcohol industry sponsors were providing banners, signs, volunteers, money, advertising budgets, and other compensation for us allowing them to participate, but contingent on us having a legal venue to co-promote their products along with our production. No license, no sponsors. No promotion-no St. Patrick’s day event-no Shamrock Run. And sadly, no money raised for Maslow or Rockafairy.
  1. Romeo Theatre Project-withdraw all proposed building permits and full on premise liquor license application (which, by the way, again, we haven’t heard anything back on, numerous months after submitting it)
    1. This project is being canceled for multiple reasons which are largely unrelated to city of Ashland processing non-responsiveness; the architecture firm we hired has done an abysmal job of advising us of fatal flaws that they should have caught while doing code analysis.
    1. However, we also want to point out that we applied for a full on-premise liquor license early on, I think as far back as November 2022, and still as of March 12th, haven’t heard anything back about it being scheduled for review at city council. We applied for this liquor license WELL in advance of estimated project completion timeline because in my experience, the city of Ashland takes an excessive and unnecessary amount of time to process these applications. While applying for a liquor license for Trapdoor Bar and Grill, we were delayed numerous times by “lost applications,” delays, and further review, which ultimately almost cost us the ability to open at all. We’re not sure if the city of Ashland even knows where the application for Romeo Theatre’s (RT Entertainment LLC) f-com license is, but we’d like to withdraw that one as well, if you can find it.
 By the way-this letter is not meant to be a baseless rant against the entire local government. Throughout this process, and generally in our experience as business owners here in Ashland, we have definitely seen city employees in the Police, Planning, and Public Works department go above and beyond to fulfill their duties and get things done. Several people specifically made this process easier for us and made time to help get it done. But elsewhere, we were back-burnered and ignored. 
 In conclusion, the challenges facing entrepreneurs in Ashland are already significant, and the city’s lack of responsiveness only further compounds these difficulties. Delays caused by city bureaucracy can be frustrating, expensive, and time-consuming, and they can dictate the success or failure of new projects. It is imperative that the city re-examines its priorities and takes a more proactive approach in supporting its entrepreneurs, responding to emails and applications in a timely manner.

Furthermore, it is ironic that the city of Ashland espouses values of regional cooperation and support for public safety and homelessness, yet fails to deliver when presented with an opportunity to permit an event that would directly benefit the unhoused population and services that support them, such as the Maslow Project. We had an opportunity to turn what is historically viewed as a drinking holiday into a chance to give back to the community and draw attention to a pressing social issue in the Pacific NW and beyond. Despite spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours planning and preparing for the event, we were stymied by non-responsive city officials.

Meanwhile, homeless individuals continue to camp in freezing conditions on the steps of the police department, in downtown Ashland’s plaza, and at the fire department. Addressing the pressing issues of public safety and homelessness in the community should be a top priority for the city. Additionally, making a point to assist, or at least not impede, young entrepreneurs attempting to also tackle these problems would be a great start. By doing so, Ashland can not only support its entrepreneurs but also create a safer and more equitable community for all of its residents.

We tried to leave emotion out of this—providing the dates and exact facts of how we’ve been stonewalled, ignored, or shown an utter lack of urgency, but it should go without saying that these situations hurt us deeply, both on a personal level and financially. It’s devastating to put our heart and soul into trying to make our community a better, more inclusive, more fun place and have our efforts fail out because someone in a public department couldn’t just write a damn email.
 

Sincerely,

 

Curtis, Jesse, and Ron