"Floatopia" supporters are accusing the city of playing favorites when granting alcohol permits for special events.
A lawsuit threatening this summer's 60th annual Over-the-Line (OTL) tournament is getting serious attention at city hall, as well as in superior court.
The plaintiffs, onetime promoters of those boozy Floatopias of recent years, claim they're getting second-class treatment.
Behind the scenes, there’s word a solution is in the works.
But in the court of public opinion, people are denouncing FreePB.org's case against the city -- saying it's holding OTL hostage, unless FreePB gets a special event alcohol permit it failed to obtain from city officials.
"What (FreePB) ought to be doing is look what OTL has done,” said Clairemont resident Robert Scott. “ Looks like (OTL has) gone to great lengths to actually have areas where people can drink -- and areas where people absolutely cannot drink."
OTL has matured quite a bit since 1954 -- especially over the last few years after city voters passed Proposition D, a ban on booze at beaches and waterfront parks.
Now, the sponsors -- those free-spirited members of the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club -- need special event permits for alcohol consumption, calling for designated beer tents, security guards and ID checks.
FreePB.org activists -- cheerleaders for the "Floatopias" on Sail Bay whose ringleaders exploited a legal loophole that eventually was closed -- want a permit from the city for a BYOB "Leisure Olympics" at Crown Point Shores late next month.
Organizers have told NBC 7 they can't afford the expense of complying with the police department's regulations that apply to OTL -- which they claim is getting preferential treatment by not having to undergo an environmental review.
"Now what the city's trying to say is, if you're an old-timer connected to the political structure, that you get this special treatment," FreePB spokesman and lawsuit plaintiff Rob Rynearson said in an April 29 interview with NBC 7, before City Council’s Public Safety & Neighborhood Services Committee rejected the group’s appeal of the police department’s denial of a special event permit application.
Rynearson could not be reached for comment Monday, and FreePB’s attorney Cory Briggs withheld comment pending back-channel talks with city officials.
According to sources familiar with potential settlement discussion at city hall, FreePB's Leisure Olympics might be permitted to share space at Fiesta Island during OTL, subject to the same on-site rules and restrictions.
FreePB was on the losing end a similar court case in 2010.
Pacific Beach resident John Savage rejects the notion that FreePB has been treated unfairly: "They're quite frankly the reason that the bans got put in place -- the kinds of litter, the issues and problems that they don't want to be responsible for."
Meeting with reporters Monday, City Councilman Kevin Faulconer lauded OMBAC’s approach to its alcohol exemption.
"They've spent a lot of time and effort on security, very clear rules of the road, and it's a process that works," Faulconer said. "I think the lawsuit's unfortunate (for) a group that has proven that it can follow the rules, and that's all we ask.”