Should Jonesborough close Main Street for events? Board sends question to merchants association

Jessica Fuller • Apr 11, 2018 at 12:22 PM

With a year of events lined up for downtown Jonesborough, members of the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen discussed whether closing Main Street is beneficial to all of the downtown merchants. 

A special events permit application was packed into the consent agenda for Monday’s meeting, which the board decided to consider separately at Town Administrator Bob Browning’s suggestion. The application was for the town’s Movies on Main event, which closes Main Street for 11 Saturdays during the summer from Fox Street to East Courthouse Square. 

While some downtown merchants say events taking place on Main Street help bring foot traffic into their shops, Browning said other merchants were concerned about access to their business when the street is closed. Browning said the owners of Main Street Cafe and Catering had expressed concern that closing the main road through downtown would hurt the business, especially consideration the restaurant’s location on the far side of the street from the event. 

At the meeting, restaurant owner Zac Jenkins said Main Street Cafe would extend its hours to dinner service on Fridays and Saturdays from May 4 through sometime in October. 

“Everybody would agree that the restaurant business open at night any day of the week, but especially on the weekends, is a critical issue for us,” Browning said. “The restaurant basis is a major support component of tourism and a vital downtown operation. With the kind of work we’re doing with the Jackson Theatre, having restaurants open downtown in the evenings is going to be a critical function of that.” 

Browning said using the east side road of the courthouse might be another option for the event, but said Movies on Main organizers were opposed to that option and wanted the event to stay on Main Street, where it has been for several years. 

The application denotes that the road closure would begin at 7:30 p.m. and last until about 10:30 or 11 p.m. Mayor Chuck Vest asked if it would be possible to shorten the time of the road closure. Main Street Coordinator Melinda Copp said those hours are due to the time it takes to set up and take down the movie screen, plus any additional events that accompany the weekly event. 

Alderman David Sell said he understood the concern of closing Main Street, adding that he didn’t think it should be a consideration that encompasses all events moving forward.

“I’m not a big advocate at all for closing the street for anything, but having said that, I know there’s times we have to do that,” Sell said. “As a business owner, I know how important traffic flow is. ... I think that we need to look at all the events. Anything that can be held somewhere in Jonesborough without closing Main Street needs to be looked at.”

Alderman Terry Countermine suggested sending the matter to the Jonesborough Area Merchants and Service Association for consideration and table the rest of the dates until the board’s next meeting on May 14. Countermine’s motion, which was approved, allows Movies on Main and Soda Fest to be held on May 19.

“The current JAMSA organization is the strongest it’s been in years, and they really work well together but it doesn’t mean they agree all the time,” Countermine said before making his motion. “I would rather have them discuss this and come back with a recommendation to us than for us to make a decision for them.”

In other business: 

• Board members approved a bid from Buck Steel for the fleet maintenance and wastewater facilities projects that will move the city garage out of the heart of town into a bigger facility. Browning said bids came in “as expected,” and estimated once started, work will progress for about five months on the projects. The full project bid is $260,305 for the fleet maintenance building, $82,830 for the equipment shed building and $140,070 for the wastewater building. 

• An ordinance establishing a $100 meter re-installation fee passed unanimously. According to the agenda item presented at the meeting, the ordinance is in response to water customers stealing water.





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