::Raleigh City Workers Help Durham Beer Co.
By Elliott West, Raleigh Chronicle News Editor
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
RALEIGH - Some downtown Raleigh merchants are questioning why the city of Raleigh is using city resources to help boost profits for a Durham-based beer magazine to help them make more money at an upcoming beer-drinking event in Raleigh.
The Downtown Raleigh Alliance, which is a downtown group partially funded by city tax dollars, and the City of Raleigh itself sent out press releases and e-mail newsletters to hundreds of people asking for "volunteers" to help All About Beer Magazine, which is located in Durham. The beer magazine puts on day-long beer drinking events in Raleigh and Durham called the World Beer Festival.
One of the newsletters has the official City of Raleigh logo on it and even the Wake County logo.
Although some may say that helping the homeless, children, or the elderly is the best way to volunteer, the city of Raleigh proclaims that helping beer drinkers get their beer is "the coolest volunteer job ever!"
"Experience volunteering at its best!" exclaims the notice in the newsletters which mention that so-called "volunteers" will receive "an invitation to the post-event staff party where you will be offered sample beers."
The "volunteer" notices in the newsletters are evidently being used solely to try and get volunteers for All About Beer and are not being used to draw more attendees to the April 28th beer drinking event in Moore Square -- the event sold all of its tickets quite some time ago and on its website says it will turn away people who try to buy tickets the day of the event.
Evidently, part of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance's funding from the city and downtown Raleigh merchants is used to pay workers to help coordinate volunteers for a Durham-based beer festival.
In at least one notice, "volunteers" were asked to call a number at the Downtown Raleigh Alliance -- not All About Beer Magazine -- and ask to speak with Ellen Fragola, who works at the Alliance.
Some merchants are not happy to see efforts by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance going towards making a Durham beer magazine more money.
"It's not so much that it's about beer but I have to wonder why Raleigh is asking for volunteers for a for-profit company that's not even in downtown Raleigh?" asked one Raleigh business owner who asked that their name not be printed in the article.
"I could see the city or alliance asking for volunteers for Artsplosure or Urban Ministry or some other non-profit group," the merchant added. "But to help some beer magazine in Durham make more money? I mean I don't see them asking for free volunteers to help me with my business."
Another merchant questioned why the Downtown Raleigh Alliance asked for volunteers for a beer event, but not for other events downtown.
"I don't remember them asking for volunteers with the Christmas parade or St. Patrick's Day Moore Square event," said the merchant. "It seems fair to me that if they ask for one event, then they need to ask for them all."
Perhaps one reason that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance is helping the Durham beer magazine company to make more money by providing them with more unpaid workers is because the Raleigh Alliance will receive a cut of the profits.
Despite being organized by a "for-profit" company, the event is being touted by the city and the Alliance as a fundraiser for downtown.
"The World Beer Festival Raleigh is helping to raise money for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance which is dedicated to revitalizing downtown," says the notice in newsletters sent out by the Alliance and the city.
Although she did make a brief statement, Ellen Fragola with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance refused to answer any detailed questions about how much of the All About Beer Magazine profits from the event will be paid to the Alliance or where the money will be spent in downtown.
In an e-mail from Fragola, she only stated that the event has been deemed to be "mutually beneficial" to the organizers and downtown Raleigh.
"Thank you for your inquiries," said Fragola in an e-mail. "The Downtown Raleigh Alliance helps promote downtown special events that attract visitors, patrons, and residents. The World Beer Festival is indeed helping raise money for our organization and we believe the relationship to be mutually beneficial for Downtown Raleigh and the event." ::