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Events adjust for proposed Downtown Zone, businesses fear negative impact

MADISON (WKOW) — The city is getting closer to imposing new rules when it comes to events in downtown Madison. The proposal is hoping to combat “festival fatigue,” which the city says is wearing out its resources, but businesses say those events help keep them afloat.
For Miar Maktabi, January means quiet nights at his State Street restaurant.
“If you didn’t have a good amount of events during the summer, you won’t be surviving,” he said.
The Dubai Mediterranean owner said races, festivals, markets and anything that brings in foot traffic brings in business.
“During the summer, my patio is full,” he said. “I don’t have anyone indoors, everyone is outdoors and they’re looking for and they’re watching these races. I mean they’re watching these events.”
Some of those events however, won’t be returning for 2019, including the Crazylegs Classic, which as of this year, won’t be running down State Street.
Event coordinators worked with city staff like Kelli Lamberty from the parks division to design the new route. Now it fits the rules meant to keep traffic disruptions minimal in the proposed “Downtown Zone.”
“The route that they had required a lot of resources from the city and was expensive so you know, we’re really happy to come to an agreement with any kind of event like that,” Lamberty said.
The proposed rules include an end to any events that close main through-ways on the isthmus on weekdays or weekend evenings unless they’re city-sponsored events. The city will make exceptions for legacy events that have been there for more than 10 years and new “marquee” events officials say will bring tremendous economic growth to the city.
Some of the legacy events include the Pride Parade, the UW Homecoming Parade and Maxwell Street Days, although the plan would limit the market to Saturday and Sunday.
Despite these exceptions, Maktabi said he still has his concerns. With more and more businesses moving away from State Street, he said he’s worried limiting events will only drive more away.
“That’s not gonna help us, that’s gonna make us think of like a different location,” he said.
The city’s Downtown Organizing Committee is still not ready to vote on this proposal. Committee members plan to take it up in their next meeting on Feb. 21 where they’ll discuss what new events could be big enough that they’d be willing to make exceptions to the Downtown Zone restrictions.

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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