It is time for the City of Oshkosh to end the silly little dance it does with downtown bar owners. We hear ad nauseum that the City is committed to making the North Main Street district a viable, vibrant area--yet, when somebody tries to actually bring people to the businesses in the district they are made to feel like a bunch of criminals.
As usual, the City's hypocrisy is exposed by an event that will bring an estimated three-thousand people to North Main Street on October 8th--the Oshkosh Pub Crawl. Based on personal experience and observation, the turnout for the Crawl will be approximately 15-times the turnout for the Farmers Market every Saturday and about 30-times the attendance for an average Gallery Walk held in the very same area. And yet those snooze-fests are promoted as the "success stories" for downtown revitalization.
And how does the City "welcome" those three-thousand money-paying visitors? Well, those who put together the event are slapped with a Special Event Permit fee higher than any other charged by the City. While those actually attending the event are met with an overwhelming police presence and are treated like criminals-in-waiting.
The time has come for City officials and those who call themselves "community leaders" to come clean and admit they hate the fact the most successful businesses in the downtown district are the bars. I've been here 11-years now--and I don't recall ever driving down North Main and thinking "Wow, they turned that bar into a vintage clothing store" or "When did that bar shut down--leaving behind an empty building again?"
If the majority of the City Councillors don't want people coming to the area to spend money on drinking, then man up and put that in writing. Put together a development plan for the area that phases out the night clubs and replaces them with wine bars or coffee shops or bistros--you know, the type of niche businesses that make us look like we are a "more refined society" here in Oshkosh. If you detest Pub Crawls so much, then follow the example of the Madison and pass an ordinance that bans drink specials that "promote overconsumption".
It is disingenuous to the bar owners along Main Street to hit them with a special assessment for the "improvements" to the street (that were supposed to make thing safer for pedestrians walking from business to business) or to encourage them to borrow money to improve the facades of their building--but then work to undermine their efforts to actually bring people into their businesses. And these are customers who are definitely coming to spend money--not the average "browser" of the Farmers Market and Gallery Walk who have no intention of spending dollar one.
So what will it be City Hall? More lip service about revitalizing Downtown Oshkosh or actually working to make sure that ALL businesses in the area are successful?