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Pittsburgh nixes 'Margarita Madness' run in Frick Park

Jacob Tierney
| Friday, July 20, 2018, 5:24 p.m.
A margarita with a lime at Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina's on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A margarita with a lime at Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina's on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

Those hoping for a boozy run through Pittsburgh’s Frick Park are in for a disappointment.

The Margarita Madness 5k scheduled for July 28 has been indefinitely postponed. Pittsburgh Public Safety Department said the race was poorly organized and unsafe.

Race organizer Aaron Scott, of Los Angeles, said he believes he was discriminated against because he is black.

“My company as a whole was discriminated against… we have races everywhere,” he said.

The city flatly denied Scott’s assertion.

“Racial discrimination had nothing to do with the application denial,” said Chris Togneri, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. “As stated, there were multiple concerns dating back to February with the course and the applicant’s routine failure to provide accurate information. That is why the race was not permitted.

“The city grants permits to dozens of races every year all over the city. We know what goes into running a safe and successful event. This race did not meet even basic requirements, and for that reason and that reason alone, it was denied.”

The race promised runners and walkers a medal and margarita when they reached the end of the three-mile course, along with pre- and post-race parties. Tickets cost $35 each.

But with the race just over a week away, race organizers still have not received their permit from the city, according to the Public Safety Department.

The proposed race course followed narrow bike trails that are not suitable for a large number of runners. They were inaccessible to medical support. One stretch was surrounded by poison ivy, another ran alongside a cliff, the city said.

Organizers told the city they were expecting about 1,000 runners but later announced there would be twice as many, according to the city.

Scott said reports of 2,000 runners were marketing buzz meant to drum up hype. He said less than 1,000 runners had registered.

Organizers submitted a revised application, but the city again rejected it, saying it did not address concerns about the course.

“Runners who signed up for the race are likely frustrated,” the city wrote on Facebook. “So are we. Safety concerns and miscommunication on the applicant’s part prevented the city from allowing the event.”

Ticket sales had been suspended as of Friday afternoon, though the Margarita Madness website still featured a countdown timer ticking down to July 28.

Scott said his company is providing refunds to those who ask.

Scott said he got his liquor permit, registered his company as a Pennsylvania nonprofit, flew to Pittsburgh to meet with city officials and paid a hefty application fee, but was still rejected.

“They cashed my check, and they still haven’t said anything about the $2,500 that I sent them,” he said.

He said he received little guidance on safety requirements for the route, and that city officials were unclear about the steps he needed to take to get the race approved.

He said he is talking to a lawyer and considering suing the city.

Scott said he has held 20 margarita madness races across the country, and this is the first time he’s had to postpone one.

However, it’s not the first time a race he has organized has been involved in controversy.

Scott used to organize a race series called the Ultimate Wine Run.

News outlets in Seattle , Kansas City and Erie reported on runs that were postponed or canceled. The Better Business Bureau gave the Ultimate Wine Run an F in 2016 after receiving 10 customer complaints.

Scott said the canceled races were run by people who licensed the name from him, and he was not directly involved.

He said he’s looking for alternate venues for the Margarita Madness run and hopes to announce a new date soon.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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