Hip Hop concert nixed by judge

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The Levy County Sheriff's Office does not know how much it spent on overtime this Labor Day weekend, but one thing it does know is that it prevented a hip hop extravaganza planned for 2.4 acres at 21151 N.E. U.S. Highway 27 outside Williston. 

The Sheriff's Office cancelled leave and had all deputies and officers on duty  ― along with staff from the Levy County Department of Public Safety, Levy County Road Department and officers from Williston Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, and Marion, Alachua and Gilchrist counties sheriffs' offices ― at the ready should there be trouble. 

Sheriff Bobby McCallum told the Levy County Commission on Tuesday that he met with the concert promoter on Saturday, explained the order and the procedure for holding such an event and the promoter was good with that. The sheriff said there were no problems in heading off people from the site. The Sheriff's Office said when it gets all the figures in for handling the event, it will be made public as part of a Sunshine request by the Levy Newspaper Group. 

Last Friday, the Levy County Commission sought and received an injunction halting the planned concert on the grounds that the organizers had not applied for or received a permit under the county's music entertainment and festival ordinance. 

McCallum and his top staff and an investigator for the sheriff's office laid out the case for seeking the injunction at a hastily called emergency meeting. 

Eighth Circuit Judge William Davis granted the injunction and prohibited the organizers from moving it to another location in the county. He also attached criminal as well as civil penalties for violation of the order. 

Sheriff's Investigator Mike Narayan said on Thursday evening, after learning of the event, one of the DJs said it was to draw performers and an expected audience from Tampa, South Florida and Texas, and more than 1,000 concertgoers were expected to attend the event. 

The injunction named G.A.B., LLC, the property's owner; George A. Butchikas, of Panama City Beach, manager of GAB; Tamara J. Hughes, of Lynn Haven, the registered agent for GAB, Ronald Jimmy Webb, Jr., a DJ/performer at music festivals with the stage names “Big Bud” and “Bud Webb.”and Norman James, Jr., operator of So So Clean Car Wash located on the GAB property.

Davis said in his order that there was a danger of irreparable harm, that the event posed a threat to the health, safety and security concerns of Levy County residents and no adequate remedy was available, such a money to “atone for harms that will result from conducting a musical and entertainment festival without the proper permit and review.”

The order also noted that the county would be likely to succeed on the merits of its case because the concert's organizers failed to obtain a permit and make adequate arrangements to handle the expected crowd.

“The injury clearly outweighs the interests of the Defendants to perform, conduct entertainment, or to earn financial reward from the proposed activity,” Davis said in the order.

In the commission meeting, McCallum said, “It has the potential for violence."

On the minds of everyone in the meeting was the shooting death of one man and the wounding of four others during the Williston Crabfest in April. One man has been charged in that incident but has not come to trial.

McCallum said the concert was promoted on social media, via flyers which deputies noticed on Thursday outside a club near Williston and after a sound check was done on large speakers at the concert site.

The county's court filing noted that the deputies did not see any bathroom facilities, provisions for medical facilities, for internal or external traffic control or security, or for fire or other safety issues at the concert site.

"This has the potential to have some safety issues," McCallum told the commission. "We are expecting the worst to happen. They are expecting to have folks coming in from Marion and Alachua county, coming in again from all over the state and out of state."

McCallum said the expected overflow of traffic would take over the median and the right of way along U.S. Highway 27 south of County Road 318.

County Attorney Anne Bast Brown advised the commission that there is an ordinance that requires entertainment events, including a concert on private property, to apply for a permit from the county and to meet public safety and health requirements. 

Commission Chair Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 4) said there is a difference between the Crabfest, which is billed as an uncoordinated community celebration without organizers, and the concert which has organizers. "This would be considered an organized music festival," Bell said.

Brown said under the county ordinance for such events, no one under 18 would be allowed in the event and sanitation would have to be provided by the organizers, as well as crowd management, parking and traffic control. 

The county also requires organizers of large events to provide for security and emergency medical services. That was an issue in the past when the owners of Horse Hole Creek Mud Bog staged regular events under a special exception permit that drew large crowds. The county required the owners to provide crowd and traffic control, security and emergency medical services. 

Commissioner Mike Joyner of Morriston (R-District 3) made the motion to seek the injunction and Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston (R-District 5) seconded it. The vote was 4-0 with Commissioner Chad Johnson absent from the last-minute meeting.

The Levy Newspaper Group includes the Chiefland Citizen, Cedar Key Beacon and Williston Pioneer Sun News.