Uber Drivers Protest Gasparilla in Wake of Rate Cuts

Uber drivers cruised down North Dale Mabry and turned off their apps during the afternoon hours of Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

Downtown Tampa was flooded with inebriated pirates celebrating the 101st Gasparilla Pirate Festival on Saturday. Almost all of them relied on Uber services to take them to where X marked the spot, the following bar on the map.

While Uber drivers searched Bayshore Boulevard picking up dressed up pirates, a separate group of Uber drivers gathered for a different cause.

Nearly 30 Uber drivers gathered on North Dale Mabry to protest the recent changes made to driving rates. Uber recently cut 20 percent off prices for Tampa drivers in an effort to reduce the “slump” they suffered in January, according to their website.

Messages such as “UberFail” and “Lower fare=higher surge” inscribed on their cars showed that these drivers were trying to send a message.

Uber originally started at $1.80 in the Tampa Bay area and has since dropped to 65 cents per mile. Brian Decker, 22, has been a six month Uber driver and said that drivers are not satisfied with the rate cuts and feel as if Uber is reaping the benefits.

“We chose Gasparilla to send this message because it’s one of the most important days for Uber drivers in Tampa,” Decker said. “Uber has constantly been cutting down the rate and leaving drivers with almost no reason to drive.”

The protest started at 2:30 p.m. which was expected to be Uber’s highest time of demand with increased prices. Uber recorded rates of 6.9 times the average rate during the afternoon of last years Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

Despite last years increased rates, drivers complained that this year’s rates were not nearly as close to what was expected.

“It’s pretty ridiculous quite honestly,” Decker said. “I wasn’t planning to drive today and I’ve seen that the surge is only around 1.5 and that’s not close to what Uber was saying.”

Despite certain Uber drivers not being satisfied with the expected surge rate, Gasparilla attendee Samantha Heffernan, 24,  said her price of travel was increased certainly from regular rates.

“I was told to enter a promo code that would take money off my Uber charge, but even with that I still had to pay 34 dollars,” Heffernan said. “The surge rate I saw was about 3.2 times the normal rate, so I’m pretty confident drivers made their money.”

Several companies such as Captain Morgan gave Uber users a promo code for which allowed users to get a ride for a discounted rate.

Uber has yet to address whether or not rates will increase for drivers, which according to Decker, will affect their numbers.

“Some people use this as their main job, others don’t. It doesn’t matter what your occupation is, 65 cents a mile is not going to work for anyone,” Decker said.


Tampa’s gasparilla traditions increases pirate population

Thousands lined Bayshore Blvd. to get a glimpse of pirate themed floats.

If you were to ask a Tampa native what the Gasparilla Pirate Festival was, they may say an event full of tradition, pride, excitement and debauchery. If you asked a newcomer what Gasparilla was, they may compare it to an outtake of a “Pirates of the Caribbean film.” Both would be right.

The annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been celebrated in Tampa Bay since 1904, and more than 100 years later, it is still one of the most anticipated events of the year. Located along Bayshore Blvd., the festival attracts around 300,000 attendees. There is one common theme among the crowd, regardless of age. Pirates. Almost everyone is dressed as pirates. For the Gasparilla veterans, this is much more than a hyped up costume party, it’s a lifestyle.

“I was born on Gasparilla in 1977, and the pirates came to the hospital and actually held me,” said Ryan Euhus, an avid Gasparilla goer dressed head to toe in elaborate pirate garb. “I’m my own pirate crew.”

Gasparilla is a time for Tampa residents to forget about their stresses, bond with their family members and actually party like it’s 1821. Where there is a horde of pirates, there must be a fleet of ships as well. That’s where the floats come in, with the parade lasting around 100 organizations, businesses or krewes. Pirate krewes, that is.


Ryan Euhus, a local artist, and friend Heather Hughes pose for their favorite Tampa tradition.
Ryan Euhus, a local artist, and friend Heather Hughes pose for their favorite Tampa tradition.

“I’m 37 and have been to Gasparilla every year since I was 4. The only year I missed was when I was pregnant,” said Heather Hughes, an excited crowd member.

Not everyone in attendance had experienced Gasparilla before. Most newcomers are college students who are originally from another city or state. They’re intrigued by the idea of a celebration revolved around dressing like pirates, drinking copious amounts of rum and removing garments of clothing for plastic beads.

“It’s my first time. It’s a little hectic but it’s a lot of fun so far,” said Jillian Olsen, a junior and resident assistant at the University of South Florida. “I’m expecting it to be elaborate and I want to get a lot of beads.”

Hectic doesn’t even begin to explain the crowd so large and lively, cell phone service literally goes down for hours. Good luck finding your Uber in a sea of drunken scallywags waving plastic swords. Even so, Tampa residents start counting down the days until next year’s celebration.

“It’s a time to have fun, and be proud of your city,” said Hughes. “It’s definitely something to experience.”


Parking for booty during Gasparilla

Henry Sutter outside the Business Law Group
Henry Sutter outside the Business Law Group, P.A.
Sherry Cook fundraising for the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind.
Sherry Cook fundraising for the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind.








Along West Platt Street, people were profiting for different causes by offering parking spots in private properties.

Sherryl Cook, employment specialist at the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind, was one of them. She started at the parking lot around 9:30 a.m.

The Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind is a non-profit organization that offers rehabilitation programs for persons who are blind or visually impaired.

“It usually picks up around one when the parade is going on,” Cook said.

The idea started 16 years ago when one of her coworkers discovered a group of homeless charging people for using their office parking lot during Gasparilla. They decided it would be a good idea create a fundraiser to collect donations to support the organization.

They agreed to a price match with other nearby parking lots to make it fair. This year they charged 20 dollars for each spot.

There were 50 spots, and Cook said she planned to be there until 2 p.m.

Cooks’ plans for the rest of the day were going home and resting after a long morning at the parking lot.

Henry Sutter, 57, was another Tampa resident who decided to make some profit out of Gasparilla.

Holding a “Best Parking” sign, Sutter started at 9 a.m. working at the parking lot with his wife Patty Sutter, who works as a legal attorney at the Business Law Group, P.A., a community association law firm.

They have done this before for collecting money and donating it to the Boys Scouts or churches. This year they did it if for their own profit.

“This is year is going to my daughter’s college car fund,” Henry Sutter said.

They had 35 spots. They charged 30 dollars per car.

“Once every two or three years, I’m here,” Henry Sutter said. “We rotate turns with other people from the law firm.”