Let’s make Friday nights even bigger
Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Sep 1, 2011; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A
Longer hours, more food sales would improve FFNL
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)
If there was any doubt left about whether the streets would continue to remain closed for Freeman Friday Night Live, last Friday should have ended it. Despite the Milwaukee Brewers playing at home and the Green Bay Packers game, attendance was still pretty good downtown.
And yes, I’m going to concede defeat on my hope that we will have Main Street open again on Friday nights during the summer. At least it’s for a good reason.
The people have spoken and they like Freeman Friday Night Live. They like being able to walk from stage to stage without worrying about traffic. They like shopping in the stores and they like stopping in the bars and restaurants.
The Lovely Doreen from Waukesha and I like visiting the different art galleries and stopping to hear music in between. We make it a point to see as much as we can and we rarely just stand still.
We also enjoy bumping into so many friends downtown and talking to the business owners.
I have heard the complaint that “nobody buys anything” at Freeman Friday Night Live. I have yet to escape downtown unscathed.
For the most part, businesses that are open downtown are seeing traffic. My wife dragged me into Bangles and Bags and the place was packed.
Unfortunately, not every business is going to benefit. Nice Ash did not seem to be hurting for business last Friday night, but the point of the owner is well taken. It’s not like his business fits the atmosphere of a familyfriendly street festival. Giving away bubblegum cigars would hardly help his situation.
Same with American Tattoo. Somehow I think the health department might frown on doing tattoos on the street, and handing out temporary tattoos to children will probably not do much to drum up actual business.
On the other hand, the businesses that are closed are not going to see any traffic. There was at least one clothing store that looked interesting, but it was closed. How will we ever know for sure if it would be worth shopping there when the lights are out?
Unfortunately, when I hear of how hard it is on some businesses downtown I wonder if they would be open in the first place. When we have made the trip downtown on other nights, especially Saturday, the only businesses we notice that are open are the bars and restaurants. After dinner one Saturday night I expected to see a tumbleweed roll through town.
It would be better if the Waukesha Common Council and Mayor Jeff Scrima took a more active role in deciding the policy for the street closings on Fridays. Leaving the decision to the police and then shrugging about it when asked is not leadership. Perhaps if the council took a more active role, a reasonable compromise could be found.
In the meantime, if I could make a few modest suggestions:
It’s absolutely ridiculous that Freeman Friday Night Live is supposed to end at 8:30 p.m. By the time you walk around and duck into a restaurant for dinner, the bands are packing up the equipment.
I understand the stores closing before 10 p.m., but the bars and restaurants are still open. It’s Friday night; can we live a little?
And how come the only restaurant serving street food last Friday night was Sloppy Joe’s? I loved it when D Mo’s sold gyros, ribs and corn. Why isn’t Magellan’s selling pizza on the street? Why isn’t the Steaming Cup selling pretzel sandwiches and Thai wraps to the passers-by?
Why aren’t J. Lotti’s and the Rochester Deli setting up temporary stands on Main Street? If the streets are closed, why not take advantage of the extra room to allow more downtown businesses to take advantage?
Another suggestion I heard is that the organizers should do more to accommodate the handicapped and the elderly. Yes, there are handicapped parking spots near downtown, but running a few people around on golf carts might not be a bad idea.
Freeman Friday Night Live is successful and growing. The problems it causes are problems most communities would envy. Let’s take full advantage and make the event even bigger, a real regional draw that Waukesha can be proud of.