Downtown Pensacola businesses have big plans to attract crowds without Pelican Drop

Downtown Pensacola businesses have big plans to attract crowds without Pelican Drop

The New Year's Eve celebrations in downtown Pensacola will continue. Several businesses have banded together to continue the tradition without the Pelican Drop.

The Pelican Drop will take a new form this year. It will take place at the Blue Wahoo's stadium as a more family-friendly event.

However, the downtown bar and restaurant industry want to ensure the party continues into 2018.

The Tin Cow and Hopjacks owner Joe Abston said the downtown core is designed to celebrate the new year in a big way.

"Everyone knows that this is our Super Bowl, New Year's is our biggest night of the year," Abston said.

In addition, he said, "We really kind of got together and said what can we do at this point? What can we make happen? Where can we find the funding to put some kind of party on? Palafox is built for New Year's. We're built for celebration. We're built for a great time. We know the people are coming. We've got to give them something to show for it."

Abston said O'Riley's Irish Pub has spearheaded the move to bring fireworks downtown at midnight.

Warren Sonnen, manager at O'Rileys, said his restaurant reached out to other businesses to see if they could put together a celebration.

Those businesses included Seville Quarter, Old Hickory Whiskey Bar, Badlands Roadside Bar and others.

He doesn't want downtown Pensacola to lose the excitement it has built around the holiday.

The fireworks display will cost organizers around $8,000.

Sonnen said Escambia County District 4 Commissioner Grover Robinson, the Gallery Night board, O'Rileys Irish Pub, and Buck Mitchell with Seville Quarter helped make the fireworks happen.

Sonnen said the bars and restaurants will gear up for a busy night.

Abston doesn't expect the weather to get in the way of people's festivities.

"Last year we watched Allen Strum get rained on," Abston said. "Mother Nature is going to throw at us what she's going to throw at us. We're going to have a celebration. We're going to have a party no matter what."

There are concerns about keeping the crowds safe.

"We believe that it's a safety issue with the number of people that are involved, that are going to be down here no matter what," Abston said. "The streets need to be closed. Palafox needs to be closed."

Officer Mike Wood, public information officer for the Pensacola Police Department (PPD), said there are no road closures planned on New Year's Eve.

He said organizers didn't get the necessary permits to close down the street.

Sonnen said the decision to plan a New Year's Eve celebration was made at the last minute.

He said closing down the road requires renting bollards to block the road and paying for EMTs, firefighters, and police officers.

Sonnen said the estimated cost for officers was $12,500.

Organizers had budgeted an estimated cost for officers between $4,000 and $6,000.

Per PPD policy, Wood said officers are paid a certain amount per hour for approved special events.

He said the permits were not issued.

He said there will be additional officers in the downtown area on Sunday but they will be paid overtime.

"The officers will monitor the situation. Shift supervisors always have the ability to close roads if the crowds get very big so that's always a possibility, but we don't anticipate that right now," Wood said.

Abston is glad businesses have rallied to start a new New Year's Eve tradition.

"It really is a community. It's always great to know that my fellow hospitality, my fellow bar, and restaurant owners step up to the plate and see the importance of this," Abston said.

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