Ten days after the Santa Barbara’s Parks and Recreation Commission narrowly decided to give the controversial West Beach Music Festival a new lease on life, Harbor View hotel owner Tony Romasanta took the necessary steps to snuff it out. Tough, shrewd, and theatrically outspoken, Romasanta filed a 23-page appeal with the Santa Barbara City Council, complaining that the festival — scheduled for the last weekend in September — has grown so dangerously out of control that city hall will be inviting litigation should anyone get hurt by any one of the thousands of what he described as the music fest’s drunken, stoned-out participants.
Romasanta said the conditions imposed by the Parks and Recreation Commission two weeks ago were not sufficient to control so large a crowd. “When you have 8,000 people on hand, what happens if you turn down the music? Is everyone going to just go home?” Romasanta asked. “Of course not. They’re going to go cuckoo. They’re going to riot.” Festival promoter Joshua Pemberton of Twiin Productions said he intends to triple his security budget this coming year, that he’s willing to reduce maximum ticket sales by 5,000, and shave a few hours off two of the festival’s three days.
How the council will react when it hears the appeal sometime in the last two weeks of June is open to speculation. Mayor Helene Schneider said she was troubled by the lack of visible support for the festival by West Beach merchants and hotel owners. But Pemberton said he has letters of support from eight of the 12 members of the Stearns Wharf Merchants Association. He said he’s tried to meet with Romasanta, but to no avail. He even offered to rent all of Romasanta’s hotel rooms at the Harbor View for the three days of the festival. Romasanta grudgingly praised twins Joshua and Jeremy Pemberton’s energy and hustle, but said he wanted no part of their business.