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Adams Morgan Day hits obstacle with businesses

(Published June 28, 1999)


Staff Writer

Efforts to organize "Adams Morgan Day" hit a major obstacle when the business ownersí association refused to actively support the event, opening up the possibility that the once-annual street festival may not take place for the second straight year.

By withholding their active support, festival organizer Tom Oliver now has to canvass the Adams Morgan businesses and get consent from a majority of the owners in order to get the street closed for the event. He said if he doesnít get permission to close the street by mid-August, the festival will most likely not happen.

"Obviously Iím disappointed by their vote," Oliver said after the associationís June 15 meeting. "Their active support would have meant a lot more."

The decision came after a meeting of the association where the arguments spilled out onto the street. The members were widely split over many issues, including whether Oliverís for-profit company should be organizing the festival and whether beer trucks should be allowed at the event.

At the meeting, Al Jirikowic, owner of Chief Ikeís Mambo Room, argued vehemently against letting Oliverís company, Western Public Interest, organize the event. He has claimed that Oliver went behind the business associationís back and proposed his alcohol-free festival to the advisory neighborhood commission.

Oliver got the ANCís approval after a controversial vote when Commissioner Peter Schott, who has done paid work for Western Public Interest, refused to recuse himself from the vote and cast the deciding ballot.

"We wanted a vote that would make the least people unhappy," association president Mary Abbajay said. She said that while the association wonít actively support the festival efforts, it wonít oppose them either. "There will be no protests about this and no one will be badmouthing them," she said.

Jirikowic said he would respect the associationís wishes and not actively oppose Oliverís efforts.

Abbajay also said the association wouldnít try to organize a competing festival later in the fall or next spring.

Once called the biggest street festival on the East Coast, Adams Morgan Day fell victim to infighting and dissent among its organizers and for the first time in two decades the event was cancelled last year. Jirikowic organized members of the business association in January to start the planning early and avoid a repeat of last year.

Western Public Interest stands to get between 30 and 50 percent of the profits from the festival, although Oliverís compensation package is still under negotiation.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator