Rochester, N.Y. - Rochester Mayor is proposing code changes that put the future of the popular East End Festival in question.
At issue is whether a public street can or should be closed to the public in order to charge admission.
“We shouldn’t be charging people to use public streets,” says Mayor Tom Richards.
The East End Fest closes East Avenue for the three evenings over the summer on the first Friday of each month. The festivals are popular with young people who like music and to patronize bars.
Over the years that has drawn complaints.
“I’ve had beer spilled on me, I’ve had a lot of people urinating in places where they shouldn’t be doing that,” says Jon Gary who lives in the East End.
“For over 23 years there have been people who have been opposed to or would like to see the festival change,” said Michael O’Leary who owns Temple Bar and Grill. He also organized the festival for many of those years.
“We’ve always been able to accommodate people, or at least make it work.”
On the third Friday of last summer, the festival limited patrons to one parking, left East Avenue open, and moved music venues all in response to complaints.
City Council President Lovely Warren acknowledges the complaints, but said this is an attempt to address a similar issue in several downtown areas including St. Paul Street.
“It is not meant to single out anyone…This pertains not just to the East End, but the way we do festivals as a whole.”
Yet the proposal would impact this festival more than any other. East End Fest gets no taxpayer money. It costs about $225-thousand to put on the three events and the $5 admission fee covers about two-thirds of that cost.
“It’s probably going to make it almost impossible to do the East End Festival,” O’Leary said of the code change.
“I am hopeful that we can work something out with the festival, but it would have to change some,” said Mayor Richards.
City council doesn’t take up the issue until next month, but already one compromise being suggested is to cut the festival from three Fridays down to one and grandfather in the ability to close East Avenue once a summer.
It appears everyone wants a compromise because the festival, by one estimate, generates about $1 million dollars for East End and other downtown businesses.