Del's lemonade folks squeezed from festival again

Del's lemonade folks squeezed from festival again

SCITUATE - Del's Frozen Lemonade may be a Rhode Island favorite, but it sure doesn't have a lot of fans on the Town Council.

For the second year in a row, the council has denied a license to allow the popular Cranston-based business to sell frozen lemonade at the Scituate Art Festival, held during the three-day Columbus Day weekend.

"I am very upset, and I hope it pours rain for three days," said Joseph Padula, vice president of Del's and co-owner with his wife of the Del's in Johnston.

At the June 12 meeting of the seven-member Town Council, the council voted to deny Del's a license, with four votes in favor of denial and three recusals from councilors who also are members of the festival organizing committee. The festival on the town common in north Scituate draws thousands of people every year and is the most popular event in town.

"We have an ordinance that says once you give up your spot, you lose your license," Town Clerk Margaret "Peg" Long said, explaining the ground rules for vendors.

"We want to keep the money in town," she added. "This is a big fundraiser for the entire town." The festival is intended to benefit nonprofits in particular, she said, rather than for-profit businesses such as Del's.

Del's last took part in the festival three years ago, when it was granted a license for one year and a vendor's position in a church parking lot. Del's was denied a license last year when the church lot was no longer available and no other spot was found for it.

"We've been doing this festival for 20-something years," Padula told The Breeze & Observer in a telephone interview. He noted that he hired attorneys both years to represent Del's before the council, to no avail. "This year I was told there was a location (for Del's)," Padula said. "But when I got to the meeting, the location was not available."

"It's not like we're selling anything bad," he said. "If you're selling something people want and it's a good product, why would you not allow it?"

Padula blamed "all these stupid rules" governing festival licenses. Denial, he said, is taking "a tremendous amount of income from my pocket." The last time he sold Del's at the art festival was one of the "best years we've ever had."

"I do believe in helping out nonprofits, and we do work closely with them," Padula said. "These people (in Scituate) are very difficult to do business with. Obviously, they don't care about small business."

There is still an outside chance that Del's could be sold at the festival. Padula revealed that he has a proposal to sell Del's under the Scituate Lions Club license at the food court and he is waiting to hear if it will be accepted.

Family-owned since 1948 and now available in 20 states, Del's was named the "Best of Summer" in Rhode Island in a recent Providence Journal readers poll, beating such other attractions as the Newport mansions and the Washington County Fair.

Voting against Del's license at the Scituate meeting were Council President Charles A. Collins Jr. and council members William Hurry Jr., David Hanna Jr., and David A. D'Agostino. Recusing were council members Kathleen Knight-Bianchi, Brenda Frederickson and John Winfield Jr.