Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What are the downtowners thinking?

Wait a minute. The city will insist on walling off access to my business on a regular basis, and closing the streets around my store? But they want to charge me for putting a table of books onto the sidewalk? Or worse, maybe decide my display doesn't meet their standards?

My first thought was, who's complaining? Turns out, it wasn't any customers, it was a downtown store owner that who didn't like the looks of her neighbor's displays.

Hey, if you don't like the looks of your neighbor's display (tires?) go tell them. I'll bet you they'll conform. Don't be a weasel and go to the city council to have the city bureaucracy get involved. Bad idea. Really bad idea.

And make everyone pay. Because of your stupid complaint, we all end up paying an extra 200.00? And the Downtowners are in favor of this? Who's side are they on?

I tell you, when the neighbor can decided what your store looks like, we are no longer a confederation of independent businesses, we are a mall. Suppose someone doesn't think a comic store fits among all the jewelry stores and art galleries? Could they start deciding that?

The worst of it, the freaking Downtowners are in support of this measure, that would cost me 200.00 a year to put a table of books in front of my store.

That's it.

This organization has metastasized into a interfering, blundering mess of dopey merchants. It seems to always take the side of the most prosperous of downtown businesses -- and to ignore everyone else. In all the years since I was roped into being a downtowner against my will (I hereby resign) they have never once even mentioned my business in their newsletter.

Some examples of their overreach: wanting paid parking. Wanting to put camera's on every corner. The endless festivals and closed streets. And now this.

What are the downtowners thinking?


Leitmotiv said...

Yeah! Put that punch down and start sobering up!

Duncan McGeary said...

Maybe I need to start drinking some of that punch. Then I'll see the logic of this.

Andy Z said...

I thought you might have a strong opinion on that. Pretty soon you'll be required to have the same style of bell on your entryway. Or required to have uniform lettering on your windows. Or they'll start fining you for having sun-faded merchandise in your window.

I think the downtowners WANT it to be a mall.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you Duncan. I am a downtown business owner (and heaven help the rest of you if my business is one of the "most prosperous"). What you want your business to be or look like between your four walls is up to you, but the sidewalk does not belong to the business owners, and the City has a mighty big stake in access, liability, etc. I have never minded the odd table or display in front of a business, but I would not want the downtown to look like 'Sidewalk Sale" weekend every bloody day. Does no "rules" mean that I can place merchandise anywhere on the sidewalk...I certainly cannot place signs everywhere on the sidewalk in front of my store (though we did have a competitor hire a "sign waiver" to stand in front of our store for several days - legal as long as they moved around a bit). Like or two instances are not a one cares. When it starts increasing and impacting others, rules and regulations will soon arrive (and are warranted in my view). I have not noticed an increase in our part of downtown, but I have noticed it over on Wall St. I hardly think one instance generates usually is a pattern. I agree with you on many of your observations on small business life, and downtown - but not this one.

Duncan McGeary said...

They could 'regulate' the displays without charging 200.00 a year, however.

(Whisper -- they used not allow displays of any kind, for the majority of my time down here. I think they add to downtown personally.)

Anonymous said...

Agreed. $200 seems steep. The benefits of extra seating for the food/coffee/drink places would likely justify the extra cost, and they probably need the most guidelines (how many tables, how wide accessways, etc.) I think a smaller fee with a limit on how much space can be used, with things like "cannot block or impede access to a neighboring business" would be reasonable.

Duncan McGeary said...

Yeah, it seems apples and oranges to me what restaurants do and my little table of books.

As far as the "fairness" issue, what do the restaurants gain by everyone else having to pay?

A true advocate would try the opposite direction: "It's unfair to charge restaurants when you don't charge others." At least as a beginning negotiating posture. For restaurants, maybe it should also be free, or at least less.

Not -- everyone else should pay.

And really, what kind of advocate wants to add 200.00 to those he is supposedly advocating for, when the service is currently free?


H. Bruce Miller said...

"I would not want the downtown to look like 'Sidewalk Sale" weekend every bloody day."

Neither would I -- but I don't see how the $200 fee would prevent that. If there's a problem then ban merchandise displays on the sidewalk, or restrict them to certain days and/or limit the square footage of the displays.

Although personally I don't see this as much of a problem. If any.

Duncan McGeary said...

And THAT my friends is how I predict this will end, thus benefiting absolutely no one.

Duncan McGeary said...

"I think the downtowners WANT it to be a mall..."

You're probably right. Which is ironic since downtown in the 80's was defined as those who wanted to AVOID the mall.

We were the people who came in after all the downtown businesses moved to the mall.

I think there is a much more mainstream mindset downtown right now than than there used to be. The recolonizers (bohemian and independent) are mostly gone.

And I think the mall-like thinkers are much less free-thinking, tend to follow the retail groupthink of the moment and generally, well, you saw what happened the the malls around here...

The great irony is the boho's that came downtown created a vital downtown, and the less creative mall followers all disappeared.

Ah, well.

Helen said...

Just wondering if the ADA folks had an opinion .... sidewalk selling could present a problem for wheelchairs, visually impaired, etc.

Duncan McGeary said...

They have rules about leaving enough room.

It's HOW that is interpreted and enforced that has changed over the years.

We used to not be allowed to put anything on the sidewalk. I was completely surprised when that changed.

I try to not impinge more than a couple feet or so into the walking area, which leave six or more feet.
I think everyone has been careful not to rock the boat.

Until now.

H. Bruce Miller said...

"I think the downtowners WANT it to be a mall..."

Please -- they're not called "malls" anymore, they're "lifestyle centers."

Anonymous said...

you should pay the 100. year sidewalk seating fee, put up 3 tables. have customers and books outdoors, internet, etc. at least for 100. bucks less you can get some great exposure.

Duncan McGeary said...

got to admit, that's an interesting idea.