Decision expected this week on future large event permits in Savannah


River Street, Savannah, Georgia, USA

Photo: Getty Images

BySean Evans

Published:Oct. 12, 2021 at 11:49 AM EDT

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The mayor of Savannah said a decision could come soon on whether permits for outdoor events in public spaces with more than 500 people will be granted.

Mayor Van Johnson said a decision could come as early as Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. That’s after he meets with the health advisory committee, which is made up of doctors from area hospitals, as well as leaders from the health department.

Of course, the biggest event coming to Savannah next month is the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, which draws in more than 10,000 runners and spectators.

We know already from Visit Savannah that 16,000 racers have pre-registered, and about 80 percent of those racers are from out of town.

Tuesday, Mayor Johnson again said the city approached the run organizers, who indicated they needed to know if a permit would be granted by mid-October.

“Mid-October would actually be Friday. And so, we’re going to commit to have an answer by then. I understand if we do cancel it, our hoteliers and folks will be able to work with people who have made reservations. And of course, people who are coming here to run can still come visit Savannah, we’d love to have them,” Mayor Johnson said.

An online petition has been created to go to the mayor and council with hopes of conveying how much the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon means to the Savannah running community.

Jane Ogle, the creator of the online petition, says a couple thousand of racers are from the Hostess City.

“We want to encourage the city, the businesses, the neighborhood associations to understand just what a tremendous benefit from a health perspective it is to have a race like this in Savannah. Not to mention the tax income and all of that, and the tourism,” Ogle said.

Ogle’s petition is in support of having the event for years to come. She acknowledges the tough decision ahead for city and health leaders on whether to grant the permit for this year’s race.

“I understand that the mayor is concerned about an influx of people from out of town for this event, and the impact that has within other parts of the community, at which point, the city doesn’t have that much control. You can’t control what people are doing inside of private enterprises,” Ogle said.

Mayor Johnson had this to say about monitoring local COVID case numbers and how they’ll factor into the decision.

“I believe we can co-exist. But however, if the data is not there to support it, I’m not prepared to recommend having a large event that’s going to give us money in the short term and kill off our community in the long term,” Mayor Johnson said.

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