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Wedding sites in tug-of-war with city

Worried new change will cost business

Some say there's a battle .. going on.. in the nation's oldest city:.. over money being made from holding weddings. A tug-of-war.. some business owners say ... they're waging .. with the city of St. Augustine.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Jennifer White owns the White Room, a venue for weddings and receptions in St. Augustine.

White already has competition from other businesses competing for wedding parties and their payments.

The City of St. Augustine got into the wedding business when they decided to renovate the visitor information center into an upscale hall, which can also hosts weddings.

"To me, I don't really feel like there is a lot of room for competition in this town, especially for the city to get involved and say, 'Hey we want a piece of the pie. Thanks for paying your taxes but we want more,'" White said.

City manager John Regan said the city is trying to raise the bar for all businesses.

"What were really trying to do is create a diversified element that will create a rising tide and a rising tide floats all boats," Regan said.

White doesn't believe it should work that way. She estimated there are nearly a dozen venues in town for weddings and said most of them have vacancies. The city said it plans to advertise itself as a rental spot. White said by the time the renovations are finished in December there will be even more empty venues.

She said the renovations are a waste of tax dollars.

"To put all the time and energy into opening a business to pay your taxes to ultimately pay salaries for the city and the city officials then decide they like your business plan and we are going to go into competition with you," White said.

The renovations will be finished by December.

The city said the money earned from renting out the visitor information center would be funneled back into a fund for upkeep.