Chamber discontinues Taste of Newport

The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce will not host the Taste of Newport dining festival this year.

Chamber President and Chief Executive Steve Rosansky announced the cancellation of the fall event, which for years has been featuring samples from various local restaurants. He made the announcement in a newsletter circulated Monday.

"Over the past 24 years, the Taste of Newport has grown into a major Southern California signature event," he wrote. "As a result, it has increasingly relied on the resource of the chamber to the point of keeping us from our core mission of promoting, informing and educating our membership and serving the business needs of the Newport Beach community."

Rosansky — a former Newport councilman who took the reins as interim chief executive in January following the retirement of the chamber's longtime head, Richard Luehrs — has said that chamber leaders planned to take a hard look at ways that the century-old institution can stay relevant and financially solvent in a changing business environment.

There have been calls over the years to merge the chamber with Visit Newport Inc., the city tourism bureau, as well as the separate Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce, but neither idea has gained much traction.

In the newsletter, Rosansky wrote that the group intends over the next year to "explore ways in which the Taste of Newport can be reimagined and presented in a way which works for our members as well as all of those restaurants and businesses that have partnered with us in the past."

Rosansky said Monday that partnerships with some of the city's other business groups, such as the Newport Beach Restaurant Assn., could revive Taste. The event could also come back in a pared-down fashion, he suggested.

One "driving factor" behind cutting the Taste of Newport, he said, was that "even the venue was in flux." He said construction and traffic at Fashion Island might have forced the relocation of Taste anyway.

He said that without the Taste of Newport on their plates, chamber staff members will be able to put more energy into planning other events that better serve its membership.

"[Taste of Newport] takes about three or four months of the chamber's time, solid," he said.

Opportunities for chamber members to network with local officials, through the group's revamped government affairs meetings, for instance, could help business owners, Rosansky said. By being "on a first-name basis" with city leaders, the business owners would feel more at ease navigating bureaucracy, he said.

A monthly business breakfast series, he said, is in the works.

He added that as of now, no other chamber events are on the chopping block. The Christmas Boat Parade, which he said is "clearly the most important event" the chamber hosts, is "definitely going to occur."

Twitter: @jillcowan

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