Cottage Bar ending annual Chili Cookoff; blames city fees

Cottage Bar Chili Cookoff, 2015

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A popular annual event in downtown Grand Rapids will not be returning, and the organizer is blaming the City of Grand Rapids.

Dan Verhil, the owner of the Cottage Bar in downtown Grand Rapids, says the bar will not be hosting its annual Cottage Bar Chili Cook-Off this year.  The Cottage Bar has been hosting the event for the past 36 years, and Verhil says they’ve raised more than $400,000 for charities like Gilda’s Club and the American Red Cross.

Verhil says in a press release that in the past two or three years, the city “fees, requirements, inspections and review boards have gotten ridiculous and there is no money left to benefit a charity, which was the whole point of the event.”

“It’s a decision I don’t want to make,” Verhil told FOX 17. “It’s sad for me to make, because it was like my favorite event of the year to produce. The cook-off to me was like next to Christmas, was just an exciting fun day that everybody had a great time around. And now it’s going to be gone unfortunately.”

“The fees to the city were over $1200 and when you add the state and the county health department, I spent $2600 just to start the event to be approved,” Verhil said of the cook-off last year.

However, city officials say in some cases their event fees are recently lowering, then quoted 2017 city expenses for the cook-off to be $980.

“I can only speak for the last few years,” said Evette Pittman, Special Events Supervisor with the city of Grand Rapids. “The events’ fees have changed in that for community events, meaning events that are open and free to the community, those costs have gone down. So for instance a tent inspection is typically $50, for a community event it would only be $25.”

Pittman tells FOX 17 city officials will speak with Verhil to determine whether this can be worked out to try and reinstate the event, adding what it would cost this year:

“Based on the event fees: so that’s your permit fee, that is his street closing fee, as well as the meter hooding fee for the parking meters that are along the street, and the tent inspections, he’s looking at $575 this year for the event,” Pittman said.

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