Politics & Government

Amid dispute over popular Beaufort festivals, city delays decision on future events

What attendees liked best about A Taste of Beaufort

Attendees talk about what they like about the 17th annual A Taste of Beaufort Music, Arts & Seafood Festival, which was held on Saturday, May 7, 2016, at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
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Attendees talk about what they like about the 17th annual A Taste of Beaufort Music, Arts & Seafood Festival, which was held on Saturday, May 7, 2016, at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

The city of Beaufort punted two new requests by local business advocates to host popular festivals next year amid an ongoing legal dispute.

Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce asked the city to use Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park to produce Taste of Beaufort, a spring foodie fest, in May and the Beaufort Shrimp Festival in October. The City Council tabled the requests Tuesday, citing a lawsuit the chamber filed in September over ownership and operation of the festivals.

Council members met behind closed doors for about 20 minutes Tuesday night to receive legal advice related to the chamber dispute.

The chamber sued the city in federal court in September over ownership and operation of the Beaufort Shrimp Festival and Taste of Beaufort, saying its constitutional rights were violated when it was denied a permit in July to operate the shrimp event and objecting to the city registering the names of both festivals with the state. City officials organized and promoted the festival held in October.

The city denied the claims in court documents filed in October and sought to have some claims dismissed.

In asking a judge to throw out parts of the case, the city said it helped start the event with local shrimpers in 1994 and has been involved the past 24 years.

The chamber says it has owned Shrimp Festival since 1995 and Taste of Beaufort since 1999 and allowed Main Street Beaufort to operate the festivals from 2009 through 2016, when the organizations merged.

Part of the merger agreement was that the chamber would own the festivals, the court papers say.

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