CEDAR RAPIDS — A Hiawatha business owner has lost her lawsuit seeking a refund from a 2015 RAGBRAI event contending she was unfairly charged a $600 vendor fee by city leaders and event planners.
Jennifer Goodlove, owner of Farmer’s Daughter’s Market, 495 Miller Road in Hiawatha, may not have profited when the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa stopped in Hiawatha on July 23, 2015, but she expanded her business with more tents, portable toilets, bands and food sheds, according to the June 14 ruling by Linn County Magistrate Robin L. O’Brien Licht.
“The court finds (Goodlove) went beyond her regular business activities and therefore was appropriately charged a $600 vendor fee,” the ruling stated.
Goodlove did not prove her case by a preponderance of evidence, which was the standard of proof, O’Brien Licht wrote.
The lawsuit gained attention as Goodlove challenged rules used across the state for one of Iowa’s signature tourism draws, saying she was forced to pay for activities she was properly licensed to have on her private property just because the popular bike ride was passing through.
“Both RAGBRAI and the Hiawatha RAGBRAI Committee maintained that there are no extra fees whatsoever to operate your normal business operation the day RAGBRAI comes into your community,” RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz said Thursday. “So if a restaurant or bar opened that Thursday in the same fashion that they do every other Thursday, there would have been no additional fees or permits needed.”
Goodlove filed the suit in September 2015 against Kim Downs, the Hiawatha city administrator, and Dave Saari, who led a special committee overseeing food and beverage tied to the event. The case was tried on Feb. 23.
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O’Brien Licht said at the time to expect a decision within 30 to 60 days. It is not clear why it was delayed an additional two months.
The city of Hiawatha had adopted a special ordinance in May 2015 setting a vendor fee structure, similar to ordinances passed around the state when RAGBRAI wheels through. In the ordinance, for-profit businesses were required to pay a $600 vendor fee if they held special activities beyond the normal scope of business to attract RAGBRAI participants.
The fees help communities cover the costs of extra police, sanitation, entertainment and other expenses associated with hosting some 20,000 additional people.
Goodlove asserted she was approached a week before the event and threatened by Downs that if she didn’t pay the fee, her event would be shut down. By that time, Goodlove had booked bands and rented shade tents and other supplies. She said she had little choice but to pay, she testified.
Downs at the hearing denied telling Goodlove she would be shut down. O’Brien Licht wrote Goodlove was aware of the ordinance, paid the bill and didn’t object until after the fact.
Goodlove “has failed to prove the RAGBRAI committee acted improperly in enforcing the ordinance as to (Goodlove’s) event,” the ruling states.
Goodlove said she will not appeal.
“At this point, it’s been exhausting,” she said this week. “I had such great support from the community, and that makes me feel good. I am glad I did the David and Goliath thing, but at the end of the day I still say the city doesn’t support the local small business.”