By Paul Guzzo Tampa Bay Times
PLANT CITY — Judging from the images on social media, everyone seemed to have a good time at the Biker Block Party at Big Dog’s Patio bar downtown.
They showed off their motorcycles, drank beer, puffed on stogies and danced to live music as the fun spilled into the streets outside.
Men poured pitchers of water on women during a wet t-shirt contest and soaked women in thongs gyrated against one another.
A video posted to Big Dog Patio’s Facebook page said the bar would host a Biker Block Party every second Saturday of the month.
But not if the city of Plant City has its way.
That first party May 11 should never have been held, the city says in a request for an injunction filed with Hillsborough Circuit Court. No one ever obtained a permit for a block party.
The city wants the court to stop Big Dog’s Patio from “throwing unpermitted illegal special events in the city without obtaining required permits,” according to the court filing.
The next block party was scheduled for June 8 but Ron Galletti, who owns sponsor Born to Ride Magazine, said it has been cancelled. Permits will be acquired if another party is planned, Galletti said. He had no further comment.
Still, the injunction request is scheduled for a hearing today.
Listed as defendants in the county’s action are Galletti’s company along with the bar and property owners Eugene O’Steen and Maria Dugarte.
Neither the property owners nor bar manager Dominick Sinopoli could be reached for comment.
Witnesses have said that parties like this have been held at the bar since last year, according to attorney Martin Champagne, who is representing Plant City.
“Cancelling one doesn’t mean they will not be doing one the next month,” Champagne said.
The May event drew about 100 people, according to the court filing. Northeast Drane Street downtown was blocked off from traffic with orange cones and vendors set up in McCall Park and along Drane and North Palmer Streets.
A Plant City police officer advised organizers they were in violation of city ordinances and they moved the vendors and the party to the sidewalk in front of Big Dog’s Patio. That, too, was a violation of city ordinances, the city says.
In 2008, Plant City enacted ordinances covering special events and requiring that they be held without “adversely affecting its core values of ‘hometown charm,’ ‘family-oriented,’ and ‘neighborhood pride,'” according to the court filing.
The ordinances require filing an application with the city manager that “provides all pertinent information regarding the event.”
Asked whether he would have approved this event, and specifically the wet t-shirt contest, City Manager Bill McDaniel would not say.
“My issue is that they held an event without a permit,” McDaniel said.
Champagne said Big Dog’s Patio is aware of the permitting process and aware that permission was required for the party.
In January 2018, he said, the bar held a Mac & Cheese Fest that the city approved.
Sinopoli expressed his frustration at the time with the application process, according to the Plant City Observer.
He initially wanted to hold the event Dec. 3 but his application was denied because nearby McCall Park already had events scheduled.