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Does race play into how permits are issued? E-mail raises questions | News

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Does race play into how permits are issued? E-mail raises questions
Does race play into how permits are issued? E-mail raises questions

Tampa, Florida -- More questions are being raised tonight about how permits are issued for events at Channelside and whether race places into the equation.

The manager of the Channelside Cinema, Matt Pezzullo, says every time he runs a hip hop event after the movies, he gets the third degree from the Fire Marshal's Office. Pezzullo says that doesn't happen with events with predominately white crowds.

Two weeks ago, Tampa Fire Captain Bill Wade says it would be impossible for the Fire Marshal Office to racially profile an event, because it only asks how many people will be there, not what kind of an event it will be. However, Pezzullo showed us an e-mail following our first story saying, "The events on the 17th and 25th are what kind of events?"

The e-mail is signed by Tampa Fire Marshal Russell C. Spicola.

The theater is also getting grief from those running the complex. After running an African-American oriented event with hip hop artist Teflon Don/Ricky Ross, it got  e-mail from the leasing specialist saying, "It is not the kind of act I would like to see you bring to Channelside."

Pezzullo says he feels the Fire Marshal's Office is siding with the complex owner. He says the fire marshal threatened him when he thought basketball star Lebron James was coming to an event.

Although Pezzullo says James was never scheduled to be at the event, he asks if it is illegal for a celebrity to come into a building. According to Pezzullo, Spicola called him and said he was lying about James. He says the fire marshal said he wasn't going to approve the cinema for any more events.

Tampa Fire Chief Thomas Forward says the fire marshal may have been overzealous. When we asked if Spicola may have overstepped his bounds, he admitted on the surface it might have seemed as if he overstepped his bounds because he was concerned for the venue.

But Forward says the fire marshal has been told his only concern is public safety and that will be the determining factor for issuing permits in the future. The cinema operators say they will believe it when they see it.


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