ES council hears opposing views on night market
Spring Street will be shut down between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, for the Wampus Wonderland Night Market, and some shop owners aren’t happy about it.
The Eureka Springs City Council heard from these shop owners on Monday night, with Cameron DeNoewer speaking during public comments. DeNoewer said the businesses downtown weren’t notified of the night market, an event sponsored by Main Street Eureka Springs.
“Ten days ago, we get, ‘You’re going to do this. This is what we’re doing … and if you want to participate, we’re going to charge you or we’re going to put a booth in front of your business,’ ” DeNoewer said. “That, by definition, is extortion, when you’re trying to get somebody to pay for something they already have, and it’s wrong.”
Shop owners pay high rent prices, DeNoewer said, for the benefits of having a business downtown. He said he’s upset with Mayor Butch Berry for approving a permit for the night market.
“It’s wrong, grossly mishandled in every single possible way,” DeNoewer said.
Jack Moyer, chairman of Main Street Eureka Springs, said the idea for the night market came from this year’s national Main Street conference. The booths won’t be selling items that would compete with existing business downtown, Moyer said.
“It’s purposely intended not to conflict with existing retailers,” Moyer said.
Main Street Eureka Springs board members met with all the city’s department heads, Moyer said, to get the event approved.
“This is a success for our city,” he said.
Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she’s spoken to shop owners about the event.
“The merchants are furious,” Schneider said. “I have some merchants that would like to address you in regards to the situation.”
Mel Shipley said he owns a couple of businesses downtown, saying a representative from Main Street Eureka Springs came to his gallery on Saturday to inform him Spring Street would be closed for the night market.
“I thought, ‘Really, how’s this happening?’ They said, ‘Well, not only is it happening, you are the only one against it,’ ” Shipley said.
Shipley visited merchants on the street, he said, and found 26 people who didn’t want the event to happen because it would compete with their businesses.
“We are in the market of selling the want. We don’t have anything other than what people want, and anything you put on that street is going to fall into that criteria,” Shipley said. “If you want to boost traffic, bring in entertainers … but don’t come into competition with us. Anything you sell is competition. We don’t need more competition, trust me.”
Moyer said the point of the night market is to encourage Christmas shopping downtown. Main Street Eureka Springs is working to increase the number of tourists who come to town during Christmas, he said.
“Doing the same thing over and over and over again does not yield growth. It yields attrition,” Moyer said. “That’s part of what’s hurting Eureka Springs. This is a shopping event intended to be a signature event … that sends the message to all our advertising, ‘Eureka Springs is open for Christmas,’ and we all get the benefit of that.”
When it came to closing the street for the night market, Moyer said, Main Street Eureka Springs followed the procedure to the letter.
“I really ask that you guys honor the process,” Moyer said.
Alderman David Mitchell said the businesses have had a tough time this year, saying the night market could be a way to help shop owners.
“It’s trying to reinvent or come up with new ideas, new things in an attempt to break the mold … in an attempt to bring in guests,” Mitchell said.
Berry handled the situation appropriately, Mitchell said, and the event will go on as planned.
“The mayor has the final authority to close the street. Everything was followed,” Mitchell said. “The outcome may not be great … obviously this petition shows that, but guess what? We’re in the middle of a situation here now where I don’t think it’s possible to stop what’s going on. This year’s probably going to be an opportunity to test the approach that has been laid out.”
Also at the meeting, the council asked Berry to entertain lease proposals for the Norris Street property.
The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, at The Auditorium.