City Manager Hopes To Resolve Oktoberfest Controversy This Week
Less than half of downtown business owners responded to the city manager's Oktoberfest survey, but those who did said they'd strongly support the controversial event if the barricades are fixed and the sponsor donates money to Fredericksburg Main Street.
Fredericksburg City Manager Beverly Cameron said he hopes to announce a decision on the controversial Oktoberfest event by the end of this week after he has reviewed the results of a survey he sent earlier this month to about 185 downtown business and property owners.
"I found some valuable information in the open-ended responses, particularly related to the lack of parking and the barricading issue and how something needed to be done to make the pedestrian travel easier along the sidewalks," Cameron said in an interview Wednesday. "I think it can certainly be improved upon over what was done last year."
Although Oktoberfest is a popular event that drew about 9,000 people downtown last year, some downtown merchants became frustrated with it. In April, about 90 people and business owners signed a petition that called for moving the event to the Riverfront Park a block over on Sophia Street. The city manager already stated in the survey that Capital Ale House has refused to sponsor the event if it is moved to the Riverfront Park and there are ABC laws that would complicate such a move, so it is unlikely to happen.
Although less than half of the 185 downtown business and property owners who were sent the Oktoberfest survey responded, most said they'd strongly support the controversial event if the visitors had easier access to other stores and if the sponsor donated to the Fredericksburg Main Street program (the program doesn't exist yet but the city did include funding for it in the fiscal year 2013 budget) .
Cameron emailed the survey to business and property owners downtown earlier this month and got the results back last week. About 80 people responded to the survey, which is attached to this article in a PDF.
The survey provided mixed feedback on Oktoberfest, which is held on Caroline Street and sponsored by Capital Ale House. For example, 37.2 percent of those who responded (29 people) said they strongly support the event in the 800 and 900 blocks of Caroline Street in the same manner as last year's event, and 30.8 percent (24 people) said they strongly oppose the event. Another 32 percent (25 people) said they either somewhat support the event, don't care or somewhat oppose it.
About 9,000 people attended Oktoberfest last year. In a survey conducted by a local group of professionals called the Fredericksburg Downtown Gang, Oktoberfest was ranked as the third-most popular event downtown, behind the Christmas Parade and First Fridays.
There were 24 people who said they would extremely favor the event if Capital Ale House charged admission and donated the proceeds—approximately $18,000 to $20,000—to the Fredericksburg Main Street program.
Almost 50 percent of those who responded said the event would be much better if the barricade system was altered so that visitors could cross Caroline Street at George Street, which was not possible last year. Almost the same number of people said they's strongly support the event if the donation was made and the barricade system was changed, too.
The city manager's survey allowed for comments and most complained about parking and the barricades.
Here are some of those comments:
"PARKING!!!!! There is NEVER enough parking downtown, particularly for new restaurants on William Street!!!! How can the City and the EDA continue to promote new downtown businesses, FAM&CC, The James Monroe Museum and
tourinsm without a single new or even planned parking space!!! For God's sake,.... HELP!!!!!"
"This should be an event to benefit all merchants in the downtown area, not just one who benefits to the detriment of others. The city dept of tourism should take over the event and allow local beverage companies to provide on site delivery and permits."
"My business is not "directly" affected by Octoberfest. It
"indirectly" benefits from bringing people into downtown
"Do not block off the sidewalks. If we could get some business I
would not oppose the event. Last year they completely
monopolized the area and we lost business. We have a right to
the town also."
"The only thing I've heard from others is the cross street at
George Street seemed to of been the main problem in past years.
Having better access in that area seems like the solution verses
anything else that I've heard."
"No I feel that large events in town is a bennfit to all. The inpact
is more than a one day thing it is getting people down town. I feel
the excitement this has will bring people back."
"unless it is a city sponsored event, it should be held on business
owner's property or they can cater event at a larger venue (such
as fair grounds). Capital Ale House should only gain business
from within their establishment or on their direct leased property.
If event is held on a city street, instead of a business owner's
building /parking lot, all businesses should be allowed to vend at
the event. Do not understand why they have been allowed to
shut down city street for a single business and get the tax breaks
they received when they opened. No incentive/tax breaks was
ever given to most restaurants in town when they opened. They
can still hold the event within their property. If anyone in
downtown should be affiliated with Octoberfest, Bavarian Chef
comes closest connection with the event. Are we going to close
city street for all the Irish pubs in town for St. Pat's, or mexican
cuisine on Cinco De Mayo? Seems to most that the city has been
partial to certain businesses."
"Parking is always an issue for Downtown Fredericksburg,
perhaps having an assigned, advertised, 'shuttled' event parking
area- maybe Olde Mill Park or FLS lots to help reduce the
"The donation to the Main Street would be nice. But how useful would it be to my company. Last year was the worst event I had seen in my 35 years of business. People could not get to my shop. The people looked like cattle in the barricade system and it was ridiculous looking. I'm sure something could be worked out y and ABC to have the event at the River. And if not, why did the city not check into that before they bought the land to have events on. Better planning is needed."
"Undoubtedly attendees are more interested in the event than they
are to shop. However, the awareness of Downtown by the crowd
should inure to all merchants as too many of the surrounding
population does NOT shop here now. The event will pay
dividends to all merchants for the rest of the year."
"The suggestion of paying main street is a gross
misunderstanding of the main street program.
The event is still a huge imposition on the rest of the established
"We as downtown businesses should be supportive of activities
that increase the exposure of all downtown businesses."
"I think it is great that Cap Ale is willing to hold an event that
brings so many people to Down Town. I know that there are
business that take a one day hit. But if they look at it as an
opportunity to be exposed to potential customers that would not
have seen there store front. I believe that excitement is key to
bringing new people downtown. They will return and shop.
I feel that parking in down town should be talked about. I see
shop owners and employees that park on the street and make
parking harder to find for the shoppers. I feel that the city should
hold meetings on this. I know that 20 minute parking at every
corner would have a huge impact on the hole block.PARKING is
an issue that need to be studied."
"The participants of Oktoberfest do not shop at stores they hinder
other regular downtown shoppers from shopping on that day.
Some of my customers have stated this to me. In the years that
Oktoberfest has taken place we have not had any new customers
that have told us that they saw our store when they attended
Oktoberfest and then came back at a different time to shop.
The City holds an annual fourth of July celebration on Sophia
Street and the adjacent riverfront park land. Food and alcoholic
beverages are served at this event as well as dancing, vendors
and other entertainment. This is billed as a community fourth of
July celebration. If Oktoberfest is billed as a community event,
why is it not possible to conduct it in the same fashion? I would
like to request that the 600 block of Caroline Street be closed for
our store's 20th anniversary celebration which will begin
September 1, 2012."