City halts cookie sales at Circle of Lights celebration

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Indianapolis Downtown Inc. is promising to cover any donations a church group lost after their fundraiser was shut down on Friday.

As the Circle of Lights lit up Indianapolis downtown Friday, another tradition for children was being shut down. Some called it a Grinch move by the city.

At Christ Church Cathedral on Monument Circle, Christmas time is rich with food, fellowship and tradition from the manger display to the treats prepared for holiday revelers gathering at the circle for the ceremonial tree lighting.

"And we have hot cocoa which we give away and cookies which the kids sell for a dollar a bag," explained Carl Michaelis, church hospitality coordinator.

Luke Pride and fellow youth group members help bake the cookies, package and sell them to help fund trips throughout the year.

Parishioner Jennifer Pace said, "We had just crowds lined up people were stepping up buying their cookies it was going great."

But just before the lights illuminated the worlds tallest Christmas tree, the sale was shut down by the city.

"All of the sudden I turned around and they were taking the cookies away and I said, 'What's going on?'" said Pace. 

"Our youth group had been selling cookies for a half an hour and at 6:30 a gentleman from code enforcement came down and said we didn't have a permit," explained Michaelis.

Indianapolis Downtown Inc. asked code enforcement officers to do a sweep of the Circle to enforce the clean zone, an ordinance established during the Super Bowl requiring vendors in that zone to have a permit. Since the church didn't have a permit, they were forced to stop selling treats.

"I think that's a perfect description, yeah. Grinch move. Totally," said one church member.

We reached out to Indianapolis Downtown Inc.  who says this was all a mistake.

In an email, vice president Bob Schultz said:

"IDI agrees that the Circle of Lights would have been an ideal opportunity for the church's youth group to raise funds. IDI will make sure that the church's youth group receives the balance of funds to cover lost donations from being shut down on Friday night, and we apologize for how this unfolded."

Parish Dean and Rector, Stephen Carlsen, said, "I've had some wonderful, kind emails from IDI already and we will work this out, I am sure."

So the churches quandary. What do you do with hundreds of donated, homemade cookies that are now leftover?

Parishioner Shannon Joyce said, "We've already given away a lot of the cookies we didn't sell to the homeless folks this morning and we have plans to give away the rest this afternoon."

So maybe, just like the Grinch, the Citys heart grew three sizes making a happy holiday for all.

The Department of Code Enforcement told Eyewitness News they do their best to enforce the Special Event ordinance,  to protect the event sponsor.

Starbucks was also asked to stop selling products on the sidewalk that night.

Code Enforcement says it will review practices for future events.

Statement from Christ Church Cathedral:

We at Christ Church Cathedral are overwhelmed by the positive response and support of the public, media and the leaders of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. following the shutdown of our youth's fundraiser cookie sale on our church property during the lighting ceremony Friday night. Clearly, this action was an unintended consequence of ordinances intended to keep our public events from becoming a free for all of questionable vendors; this is an aim we strongly support as a stakeholder on Monument Circle.

As a cathedral with 175 years invested in our community, we take great pride and responsibility in ensuring that the circle of our common life includes not only commercial interests, but a future that embodies children and youth, helping the disadvantaged, and ensuring that the arts are a part of what makes Indianapolis a vibrant world-class city - and that our voices are heard. We ask that as leaders craft these measures and set city ordinances, that groups with an established nonprofit aims or, in our case, a spiritual goal, continue to have a central place as partners in our public life in Indianapolis.

We have been moved by IDI and others who have reached out and offered support following Friday's event. There is no conflict here, just an opportunity to clarify how we believe our public spaces can be used well for the greater good of our civic and communal life.

Stephen Carlsen,

Dean and Rector,

Christ Church Cathedral