Landing permit dispute places Georgia-Florida party in limbo

City: Venue needs waiver after missing deadline for special event permit

By Kristen Cosby - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Even though it’s been an annual tradition for years, the Georgia-Florida game party at the Jacksonville Landing may not happen this year.

That’s because the Landing does not currently have a special event permit from the city to hold the party, and the two sides don’t appear close to an agreement.

The latest dispute is part of an ongoing legal feud between the Landing and the city, which owns the property that the once-popular venue sits on.

On Friday, the city told News4Jax that the Landing waited until Oct. 1 to apply for the permit, which is way past the 90-day deadline required for approval.

Brian Hughes, chief of staff to Mayor Lenny Curry, said in a statement that the venue must receive a waiver of that deadline before its special event permit can be formally processed.

“In light of recent events, coupled with the city’s significant public health and safety concerns, both the 90-day submission period waiver and special event permit are under careful consideration,” he said.

The recent events Hughes referred to may include the mass shooting that unfolded Aug. 26 during a gaming event hosted by a business inside the Landing. Ten people were shot and two were killed.

This year marks the first time the city has required a special event permit from the Landing for the annual party, and the two sides went to court over the matter earlier this week.

But a judge would likely not make a decision until after the Georgia-Florida game is over. The Landing could face fines if it decides to move forward with plans without permission from the city.

Despite that, representatives for the venue released a statement Friday expressing hope that an agreement could be worked out and the tradition would carry on:

“We expect to fully resolve the issue of the permit to maintain the tradition and look forward to continuing to work with the city in welcoming those returning to Jacksonville and those arriving for the first time, not just for the upcoming Florida Georgia festivities, but for many years to come.”

This dispute marks the latest chapter in the legal back and forth between the city and the Landing. In May, the Landing’s owner, Toney Sleiman, sued the city over its failure to repair the nearby docks. Then a month later, the city dropped the Landing’s lease and countersued.

Yet there’s still hope from some that the two sides can mend fences and move forward. Just take it from tour guide Gary Sass, who was dressed up on Friday like the city’s namesake, Andrew Jackson.

“We need to support the Landing,” said Sass. “We need this to be a success. It’s a big part of Jacksonville.”

Sass, who gives walking tours to those visiting downtown, said the party at the Landing is a big part of the rivalry game’s tradition and it should remain that way.

If nothing else, he hopes the city issues the permit for the sake of the tourism dollars it could bring in.

“We promote this,” he said of the event, which is known as the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. “As a city, it is our biggest event, the Florida-Georgia game.”

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