Thunder Alley watch party off; permit process to change

BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Modified: May 24, 2012 at 11:13 am •  Published: May 23, 2012

The regular season permit requires the Thunder to have extensive insurance coverage, manage crowd control and pick up trash, among other things. The document explaining the Thunder's crowd control plan is a sparse three sentences, one of which is incomplete.

Permits for large events are rarely, if ever, approved without a council vote, but an exception was made in this case because of the timing and because the permit is essentially the same as ones previously approved by the council for Thunder Alley, Yager and Brummitt said.

Changes on the way

As more and more events were held downtown and in Bricktown in recent years, officials realized more specific rules and a better process for the permits were needed, Yager and Brummitt said. Work to write a new ordinance governing the permits began about a year ago, and a new city position specifically to handle the permits is included in the proposed Public Information and Marketing Office budget for the next fiscal year.

City traffic engineer Stuart Chai handles permit applications now, but in recent years increasingly diverse applications in growing numbers made it hard for him to handle them on time and also fulfill his other job obligations, he said.

The new ordinance is expected to grant the city manager, police chief and fire chief, or their designated subordinates, power to revoke a permit. Currently, the rules are defined only in the permits themselves, and the permits allow city officials to revoke a permit “at will,” with public safety specifically mentioned as an area of concern.

No permit has been revoked in recent memory because the event operator and city can work with each other to make changes before it gets to that point, officials said.

“We always work with the event coordinator to mitigate any problems or concerns,” Yager said.

Final decision rests with city officials

Ultimately, the city holds the final decision on what is allowed to happen in Thunder Alley or any other event using a permit. The city can tell an event operator what it has to do to allay public safety concerns, and they can't hold the event if they don't comply.

Police can also shut down any event deemed to be an immediate threat to public safety, said Assistant City Manager M.T. Berry, a former police chief.

“The police officer working the event, his responsibility is to make sure whatever hazardous situation ... is addressed,” Berry said. “The decision as to whether or not an entire event should be shut down would be something that he has to consult with his supervisor and ultimately the chief of police.”