Council addresses concerns over Wampus Wonderland Night Market

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Spring Street will be shut down between 4 p.m. and

9 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, for the Wampus Wonderland

Night Market, and some shop owners aren’t happy about

it.

The Eureka Springs City Council heard from these

shop owners on Monday night, with Cameron DeNoewer

speaking during public comments. DeNoewer said the

businesses downtown weren’t notified of the night market,

an event sponsored by Main Street Eureka Springs.

“Ten days ago, we get, ‘You’re going to do this. This is

what we’re doing … and if you want to participate, we’re

going to charge you or we’re going to put a booth in front

of your business,’ ” DeNoewer said.

“That, by definition, is extortion, when you’re trying

to get somebody to pay for something they already have,

and it’s wrong.”

Shop owners pay high rent prices, DeNoewer said, for

the benefits of having a business downtown. He said he’s

upset with Mayor Butch Berry for approving a permit for

the night market.

“It’s wrong, grossly mishandled in every single possible

way,” DeNoewer said.

Jack Moyer, chairman of Main Street Eureka Springs,

said the idea for the night market came from this year’s

national Main Street conference. The booths won’t be

selling items that would compete with existing business

downtown, Moyer said.

“It’s purposely intended not to conflict with existing retailers,”

Moyer said.

Main Street Eureka Springs board members met with

all the city’s department heads, Moyer said, to get the

event approved.

“This is a success for our city,” he said.

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she’s spoken to

shop owners about the event.

“The merchants are furious,” Schneider said. “I have

some merchants that would like to address you in regards

to the situation.”

Mel Shipley said he owns a couple of businesses downtown,

saying a representative from Main Street Eureka

Springs came to his gallery on Saturday to inform him

Spring Street would be closed for the night market.

“I thought, ‘Really, how’s this happening?’ They said,

‘Well, not only is it happening, you are the only one

against it,’ ” Shipley said.

Shipley visited merchants on the street, he said, and

found 26 people who didn’t want the event to happen because

it would compete with their businesses.

“We are in the market of selling the want. We don’t have

anything other than what people want, and anything you

put on that street is going to fall into that criteria,” Shipley

said. “If you want to boost traffic, bring in entertainers …

but don’t come into competition with us. Anything you

sell is competition. We don’t need more competition, trust

me.”

Moyer said the point of the night market is to encourage

Christmas shopping downtown. Main Street Eureka

Springs is working to increase the number of tourists who

come to town during Christmas, he said.

“Doing the same thing over and over and over again

does not yield growth. It yields attrition,” Moyer said.

“That’s part of what’s hurting Eureka Springs. This is a

shopping event intended to be a signature event … that

sends the message to all our advertising, ‘Eureka Springs

is open for Christmas,’ and we all get the benefit of that.”

When it came to closing the street for the night market,

Moyer said, Main Street Eureka Springs followed the procedure

to the letter.

“I really ask that you guys honor the process,” Moyer

said.

Alderman David Mitchell said the businesses have had

a tough time this year, saying the night market could be a

way to help shop owners.

“It’s trying to reinvent or come up with new ideas, new

things in an attempt to break the mold … in an attempt to

bring in guests,” Mitchell said.

Berry handled the situation appropriately, Mitchell

said, and the event will go on as planned.

“The mayor has the final authority to close the street.

Everything was followed,” Mitchell said. “The outcome

may not be great … obviously this petition shows that, but

guess what? We’re in the middle of a situation here now

where I don’t think it’s possible to stop what’s going on.

This year’s probably going to be an opportunity to test the

approach that has been laid out.”

Also at the meeting, the council asked Berry to entertain

lease proposals for the Norris Street property, re-approved

Steve Holifield for the Eureka Springs Cemetery

Commission and voted down alderman Bob Thomas’ motion

to reconsider the vote to move to city meetings to the

community center property on Kingshighway. Thomas,

Mitchell and Kristi Kendrick voted to reconsider the decision,

with Schneider and Terry McClung voting against

it. Berry chose not to vote to break the tie, so the motion

failed.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6

p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, at The Auditorium.

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