There is a bit of a movement afoot downtown to perhaps amend the street closures.
You all know I've been advocating this for years.
But when they closed the streets for a bike race on First Friday in September, they finally went too far. It upset some art galleries and restaurants.
Thing is, this was going to happen sooner or later. It had to. If downtown kept hosting more and more and longer and longer events, it was bound to infringe eventually on enough businesses that someone was going to break out of the pack and complain. It happened a few years back, when me and a couple of other complained to the city councilors of the time, which is why the rules that are now in place were instituted. But like all inconvenient rules, it seems to me they've been stretched and 'exceptioned' to death.
Chuck Arnold was kind enough to include me in an e-mail stream about the subject. But until today's article in the Bulletin, "Closed Roads a Mixed Blessing in Bend," I was thinking this was privileged information and not for me to talk about. But the cat seems to be out of the bag.
I think it's interesting that an experienced restaurateur, such as Gavin McMichael, owner of the Blacksmith for many years, immediately decided that street closures on peak weekends didn't make sense and hurt business.
I've heard rumblings of the same sort from other restaurant owners over the years.
It's hard to get a business owner to say anything negative in public. At best you'll get a neutral answer. Nobody want to send out anything but positive messages.
So you have to kind of gauge peoples reactions on an cryptic scale. Mild approval is probably really neutral. Mild disapproval means they really don't like it, but don't want to say.
When the reporter called yesterday, I tried to take a mild tone -- pointing out that limiting the events only helped make the remaining events more special; that spacing them out a bit better would be more effective; looking for slower weekends or different locations downtown instead of closing streets (and parking) would be a good thing, and asking the event planners to be more mindful of the needs of downtown merchants.
I was actually kind of surprised to learn that 3 street closures were allowed in each of the summer months. That's at least one too many; and as I say in the article, I think one event per month would maximize the remaining event, and allow us to do business during our normally busy times.
In fact, I think it's backward. We need the events to occur in April and May and September and October -- when the weather is still decent and it might do us some good.
I think in mid-July is almost causes gridlock. Like all good things, too much can be a bad thing.
I'm not sanguine about the prospects of much changing. There is just too much of a lobby in support of these events: City and downtown officials, event planners, media (advertisers), vendors, and of course -- you the public who just want to right to PARTY!!!
But at least this little flurry of activity has served warning that these events are, as the headline put it, a "mixed blessing." Chuck seems to think it's some kind of communication problem -- that we aren't being warned enough or something. But I always know when the events are coming, so I think that's a red herring. It's the events themselves that can be the problem.
Without this constant reminder, they'll just keep adding events until the next time they go too far....
3 days ago