By Anyssa Bohanan
Central Oregon Daily
Oktoberfest, Summer Fest, Bite of Bend – all hugely popular events in downtown Bend. And just a few of the events some downtown business owners say put a strain on their bottom line.
Listening to concerns from businesses, the Bend City Council is considering limiting the number of days events can take place in downtown.
The executive director of the Downtown Bend Business Association on Wednesday night presented to the City Council his group’s concerns about the economic and cultural impact downtown events have.
Downtown Bend hosts nearly a dozen events in the summer months alone.
Deedee Cochran, who has worked in the area for nearly two decades, says those events create a negative financial impact on businesses like hers in one of Bend’s busiest areas.
“The Economic Improvement District is a tax that all of the building owners pay that are inside the core district,” said Deedee Chochran, a buyer for NW Home Interiors. “The EID fee is what is paying for the beautification of downtown Bend, and that’s the flower pots, that’s the removal of snow in the winter, it’s cleaning up the sidewalks, and when we have these events there’s no money from the event organizers that go back to the downtown bend association that helps pay for the cleanup or the impact that these festivals have on our downtown.”
Ray Solley, Executive Director of the Tower Theater, considers downtown to be the “base camp” of Central Oregon, and he’s concerned about how the culture of the area is being affected.
“The city, downtown Bend, is its own event. In many ways you go to downtown Bend because you want to experience it not because you want to experience something that’s been added to it or grafted on or dropped into the middle of a street closure,” Solley said. “This is not at all about ‘Downtown should have no events!” It should have as many events as we possibly can but I think we have to think about what those events are and that they play to the strength of downtown Bend which is its unique layout, it’s unique boutiques, it’s non-franchised businesses.”
As a long-time Bend resident and creator of multiple festivals that take place in Central Oregon, Cameron Clark says the events are an integral part of bringing the community together.
“We’re an events town, and some of that happens on streets that get closed, some of that happens, some of it now happens in private venues,” said Clark, owner of C3 Events. “But it happens in all these places so that all different segments of this community get to have the arts as a part of a device to raise them up and feel connected.”
At Wednesday night’s council meeting, several downtown business owners and employees expressed concerns over the impact days-long events can have on the area.
The Downtown Bend Business Association suggested limiting the number of days festivals and races can take place in downtown, because businesses see decreased sales during events that close down multiple streets.
“If you come here in July or October, it’s busy. We’re sold out during those months. And when these festivals come, they take my customers that are walking around on these streets and they take them away because they come and they can’t park here, and it’s for three days,” Chochran said.
Some businesses say that, ultimately, they’d like to have a say in future events that are allowed in the downtown area.
“It’s not necessarily fair to have one type of business benefit from a festival. It needs to be something that creates viability for all of the businesses downtown,” Chochran said.
Said Solley, “We may have to get to a point where we say, ‘What is downtown’s strength and what does it do really well everyday and do more of those and find ways to create more of what we do best as opposed to ‘Oh let’s stop what we do, bring in another project or event and see if that will do as well as what we’ve just now stopped doing.”
Regardless of what changes may take place in the future, Clark says communication is key.
“All these events that have institutional legs that have mattered in this community that have made real community happen in this town, healthy, family oriented arts, presentations happen are because collaboration has happened instead of confrontation and conflict,” he said.
The council said they will create a subcommittee in November to consider the issue and limiting the number of days streets can be closed for future events.
Image courtesy Downtown Bend Business Association