LOUISBURG — A planned stop in Louisburg on Michael Bergen’s Night Train Run was cut short when organizers say motorcycle riders were harassed by Louisburg Police Chief Josh Weber, but Weber and city officials say the agreed upon guidelines for the event weren’t followed.
The 26th annual Night Train Run took place Saturday, May 20, as a group of about 500 motorcycle riders worked to raise funds for Hands to Heart, Michael Bergen’s charity that delivers toys to disadvantaged children.
Louisburg’s Bub’s Bar & Grill was scheduled to be the first stop for the riders after they left Gail’s Harley Davidson in Grandview, Mo., at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Dawn Ralle of Bub’s Bar & Grill said she completed all of the necessary paperwork ahead of time, including acquiring a special-event permit from the city of Louisburg and a temporary permit for a liquor license for a street, road and sidewalk event from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday from the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.
The plan was to have an enclosed area outside of the bar where drinking would be allowed, and there was going to be an auction to raise funds for charity.
Weber said he was involved in the planning process ahead of time with a representative from Bub’s Bar & Grill and City Administrator Nathan Law. A traffic plan was established that included directing motorcycles to park in the West Gym lot near 2nd and Peoria streets about a block away from Bub’s Bar & Grill.
Weber said that when he went to Bub’s shortly before the motorcycles arrived Saturday, it did not appear that the business was set up as planned. He said orange snow fencing was supposed to clearly indicate where alcohol could be consumed, and there should have been a gate with a worker ready to check IDs.
Ralle said they weren’t given a lot of time to set up, so she and her team were scrambling to get everything into place. She also said she was given permission to use caution tape rather than snow fencing.
Once the motorcycles arrived, Weber said they were not following the preplanned routes, and it became clear to him that the organizers were not informed of the preplans made between the city and Bub’s. Weber said riders were incorrectly told they could park in the closed section of Broadway and a nearby car lot.
Weber said one of the biggest changes from the plan was the blockage of Kansas Highway 68, which he said can only be done with authority from the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Ralle disputes that K-68 was ever blocked off during the short time the riders were in town.
During the confusion, Weber said he spoke with Bergen and informed him about the previous traffic plan and how it was not being followed. Weber said it was his understanding that when the motorcyclists left, they would use the light at K-68 and Metcalf and leave in staggered groups so that the highway would not be blocked. When he was told that wouldn’t work to keep all of the riders together, Weber said he called KDOT to try and get approval. When he couldn’t get a hold of anyone, he told Bergen he could block off the intersection, but only for about five minutes. At that time, Bergen and the rest of the riders began to leave Louisburg without conducting the auction and headed to stops in Wellsville and Eudora.
Weber emphasized that he never told anyone they had to leave.
Bergen said the message was pretty clear that Weber didn’t want them there.
“It was instant harassment, instant threats,” Bergen said. “All this chaos, and we’re trying to raise toys for disadvantaged kids. We were only going to be there for one hour.”
Bergen said the ride has come through Louisburg in the past, stopping at Timbercreek Bar & Grill, and they didn’t have any issues. He also said they didn’t have any issues at any other stop this year, including being welcomed by police officers and community members in Wellsville and Eudora.
Bergen said Weber threatened to issue citations to some of his blockers.
“He didn’t want us there, period,” Bergen said.
Ralle said she lost a lot of business when the riders left early, and she also says she is losing business because she believes Louisburg police officers are targeting her business, and motorcycle riders and other potential customers are going to steer clear because they don’t want to get arrested.
“This is what I depend on; I depend on all of these people coming to my bar,” Ralle said. “They’ve basically ran me out of town.”
A GoFundMe page called “Help Save Bub’s Bar & Grill” has been created stating that the page is dedicated to replenishing the thousands in revenue lost on that Saturday and in the days to come, as well as funding for legal representation. There has been $380 raised of a $200,000 goal.
Louisburg city leaders called a special meeting Wednesday, May 24, during which they met in executive session behind closed doors while they consulted with an attorney.
On Thursday, May 25, the city issued a lengthy statement listing several things that occurred during the event that went against agreed upon plans between Bub’s and the city.
“The City has no authority to grant permission to block Kansas State Highway 68,” the release states. “That permission must come from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). The planned ingress that was presented to the City did not propose a necessity of blocking traffic on 68 Hwy. Traffic was to enter in waves coordinated with the traffic light at 68 Hwy and Metcalf. However, the entry plan to the event was not coordinated with those attending and traffic was being improperly stopped on state highway 68 in two locations. This was a safety hazard for not only those attending the event but also for the many family and friends of Louisburg graduates who would be traveling the same route throughout the day.”
The release also addressed the outdoor area for alcohol consumption.
“The event plan also designated a semi permanent barrier (snow fencing) to keep the area clearly designated where alcohol consumption could take place on the City street,” the release states. “This protocol was not followed as agreed upon. There were to be two distinct entry points where participants would be provided a wrist band and IDs checked to establish they were 21. This protocol was not followed.”
The city release also addressed the parking issue.
“The event plan also designated the parking lot to the south of the Wildcat Activity Center on Peoria Street to be used as parking for the event attendees,” the release states. “The local event planners did not inform the attendees of the Night Train of this protocol. The Riders were led to believe by the local event planners that parking would be on Broadway in the same contained area that was to be used for the alcohol consumption and auction. This resulted in confusion for the riders as to where they were to park.
“Detailed maps were developed by the local event planners and the City showing where the cordoned off area for the event was located and the designated parking areas. These maps were not provided to the Night Run Attendees.”
The release also stated that the city is 100 percent supportive of bringing tourism and business to the city of Louisburg.
“The planning and protocols put into place for any events are there to ensure the safety and success of the occasion,” the release states. “The City will continue to encourage and help with planning of all future special events and will continue to encourage tourism in our community.”
Bub’s Bar & Grill was quick to post a response to the release on its Facebook page.
“We know, I knew that they would turn this on us,” the business posted. “This ride was shut down before many bikes had arrived. Chief Weber was not allowing for us to proceed in setting up. Bubs did not at one time barricade nor block 68 hwy. To all that participated in Saturdays Benifit Ride The Michael Bergen’s Night Train Run. Please please please speak up.”
Seems to me that even the owner of Bub's, stated that she didn't have much time to set up and get organized". Sorry, but that falls on her shoulders. She knew this was coming and her lack of preparedness does NOT constitution an emergency on all of the others.
Furthermore with K-68 being a mess due to construction it's the wrong time to be doing an even like this. KDOT should make the traffic light going Eastbound turn green first to clear traffic and allow Westbounder's to turn south on 69 instead of backing traffic way up. Talk again about poor planning.
Car shows, BIcycle rides, Motorcycle rides, ciderfest, should all be better organized and better controlled. People of this community get tired of some of this nonsense that goes on with these events.
Bub's will be fine. No need to do a GO FUND ME account for this. We learn from our experiences.
I agree...Seems to be 100% Bar Owners fault for not complying...Louisburg Chief of Police did nothing wrong...I think I will believe Police Chief over bar owner .
Bar owner had plenty of time to set up...she failed..she did not comply with the permit ....and I believe our Chief of Police over a bar owner any day
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