Columbia merchants sing the blues over concerts

COLUMBIA (AP) — Not everyone is dancing in the streets at a popular summer concert series in downtown Columbia.

Some downtown business owners say that the Ninth Street Summerfest concerts outside the Blue Note nightclub are keeping customers away. More than 20 downtown merchants have signed a petition asking the city to only issue permits on weekday nights for the concert series. They also want the concerts to end once University of Missouri students return for fall classes.

Campus Bar and Grill owner Chris Flood said he supports the original idea of having an attraction to bring potential customers downtown during the summer when business is slow. But he signed the petition to object to outdoor concerts held during football season, when downtown crowds are already teeming.

“It’s getting away from what it was originally planned to be,” he said.

The outdoor concerts have previously been held on Wednesday nights. Blue Note owner and concert promoter Richard King said he has to book performers when their touring schedules allow, which on several dates this summer means Friday nights. The swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy performed on Friday.

“I have to take the dates that are available to me,” said King, who was not approached by the other downtown business owners before they submitted the petition to the City Council, which must approve street closures. Elected leaders took no action on the request at their most recent meeting.

Julie Rader, owner of Bengals Bar and Grill, and Tom Atkinson, owner of Shiloh Bar and Grill, wrote the petition. Signers include the owners of restaurants, bars and a coffee shop .The business owners say the concerts are harming sales and limit already hard-to-find parking. Their definition of weekends includes Thursday nights.

The concerts are often free and typically draw thousands of fans to an area outside King’s club on an otherwise busy Columbia street.

In the petition, business owners say outdoor concerts can be “more as competition than as a benefit.”

Two businesses responded to criticism of their stance with conciliatory Facebook posts later in the week.

A statement from Room 38 restaurant said it was withdrawing its support after talking to King. And petition signer Shakespeare’s Pizza wrote on Facebook that its stance shouldn’t be taken as opposition to King’s club or the concert series.

“The real issue is how often and why a private, for-profit business uses public property for private gain,” the pizzeria asserted in the post.

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