Frederick Road Fridays, the popular outdoor concert series, will have a new home this summer.
The Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce decided to move the annual summer event from Egges Lane across Frederick Road to the Mews on Mellor to provide more room and offer local nonprofit organizations a chance to raise money .
"It was a great event, and it has evolved and it has gotten bigger. Definitely bigger," said Sally Griffin, president of the chamber.
Griffin said the new location will provide more space for the event, which in the past has attracted more than 1,000 people to enjoy the free music of local bands during the early evening.
But that was of little comfort to Craig Witzke, who, with Ryan Greer and George Brookhart, formulated the idea for Frederick Road Fridays six years ago.
"There were a lot of people who worked very hard to make it work (in the past), and they would have liked to have some say," Witzke said.
Witzke said he feels hurt that his input was not included in the decision making progress and does not approve of the decision to sell beer and wine at the future location.
In past years, concerts attendees could only purchase beer in a fenced off beer garden behind Jennings Cafe on Frederick Road.
"The chamber of commerce should not be in the business of competing with other businesses in the area," Witzke said.
"Every beer that the chamber sells is one less that Ship's (Cafe on Frederick Road) is going to see or Jennings or GL Shacks (tavern or Frederick Road). They're taking this as an opportunity to compete with the local businesses," he said.
According to Teal Cary, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber plans to section off a large portion of the Mews and obtain a one-day beer and wine liquor license each Friday for the concert.
At the new location, a different local nonprofit organization will help set up, clean up and sell beer and wine at each concert. At the end of the night, a portion of the profits from that evening's sales will go directly to the volunteering nonprofit.
"When I heard that nonprofit organizations could help and be a part of it and serve beer and wine and also get proceeds from that, I just thought that this is such a win-win," Griffin said.
Griffin also said that in the event's five-year history, Omar Jennings, owner of Jennings Cafe, who instituted his Friday night beer garden for concert attendees, was the only business that seemed to directly profit from the concerts.
She said that the chamber's decision to sell beer and wine at future events was a way to spread profits throughout the community.
"We change up all the time and try to make things better," Griffin said. "Yeah, we like to make money, and we like to give it right back to the community."
George Brookhart was the president of the Chamber when Frederick Road Fridays first started almost six years ago. He said that the decision to sell beer and wine isn't the issue. That members of the committee who had, in previous years, done all the prior planning and decision making, were not included, is the concern.
"I don't feel they (the Chamber) handled the process of the change in the right manner," Brookhart said. "Even though they are the ones that have the bottom line decision and the control."
Witzke had similar feelings. He said that he wishes he would have been consulted when the decision to move was made.
"I have loved being a part of Frederick Road Fridays," Witzke said. "I've loved everything about it. It was a dream that we had. We realized the dream and then to watch somebody else change it, it's sad. But life goes on and I'm not angry about that."
Griffin recognized the fact that feelings had been hurt and said she takes full responsibility.
She said nothing about the change was meant to hurt anyone's feelings.
"I'm sorry that it's caused so much controversy and bad feelings for everyone," she said. "And if that was because of the way I handled it, I apologize for that."
"But I really really look forward to seeing this whole different type of atmosphere unfold, and it's opening up so many other possibilities," she said.
A manager at Duesenberg's American Cafe and Grill on Mellor Avenue, said on Feb. 5 he had only heard rumors about the move and would not comment.
Omar Jennings could not be reached for comment.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun