Old Town merchants group opposes new Colorado Ave. concert

       Old Colorado City businessman/promoter Charlie Cagiao is proposing another free street concert with a nationally known “classic rock” band in the 2600 block of Colorado Avenue, in the same place where Jefferson Starship played May 6.
       This time the band would be Firefall, which formed in Boulder and had several hit albums in the 1970s. The planned date is Saturday, June 24.
       However, support from local merchants appears to be less than there was for the Starship concert. That event, which featured a total of four bands over an eight-hour span and attracted roughly 5,000 people, was financially backed by the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group. But the OCCA has voted against the Firefall plan, and three nearby merchants are actively working against it.
       Cagiao said he will nevertheless continue seeking a special events permit from the Colorado Springs Police Department. He said a survey he took of merchants in the 2500 and 2600 blocks showed 40 in favor and only 5 opposed.
       Those blocks would be the only two closed off this time; for the Starship concert (also on a Saturday), the 2400 block was closed as well.
       In convincing the OCCA to pay the up-front costs to bring in the Starship, Cagiao had argued that it would be good exposure for the historic shopping district and that many of the concert-goers would shop in the stores. He still believes that's true. “If we promote the area, it's got to be consistent - at least one band a month,” he said, adding that he's working on bringing another older band, Ten Years After, to Vermijo Park Saturday, Sept. 9.
       Nancy Stovall, OCCA's executive director, said that some businesses benefitted from the Starship concert, but others did not. Such mixed results were not encouraging based on the reality that “for the majority of merchants, it hurts their businesses to close the street on Saturday,” she said. “It's not as bad on a weekday or a Sunday, but Saturday is our main day.” Also, she noted that June to August are “tourist months. For a lot of stores, that's what keeps them alive the rest of the year.”
       She said another factor in the OCCA board's decision was the red ink the group incurred from paying front-end costs from the Starship concert without receiving the anticipated level of sponsorship funds in return. The exact amount of the loss has not yet been disclosed.
       Stovall added that Sgt. Robert Weber, who is in charge of special events for City Police, has been informed of the OCCA board vote. Police consider several factors in approving a request to close off the avenue for such an event. With the Starship, these included noise, traffic and potential neighborhood disruption. Regarding these factors, Weber had said after the Starship concert that there had been few problems or complaints.
       Merchants who have gone public against the June 24 Firefall concert plan are artist Laura Reilly, who has a studio/gallery in the 2600 block and has sent out e-mails to several people, including the Westside Pioneer; Alicia Griggs of Elements Art Gallery in the 2600 block, who has sent an opposition letter to Weber and shared this with others, including the Pioneer; and Don and Linda Schlarb, owners of a propane business in the 2700 block, who complained at the May 25 meeting of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) that large crowds increase the danger to their propane tanks.
       Both Reilly and Griggs said the Starship attendees interfered with their businesses, including (as Griggs noted) eating in front of the stores, climbing on the rooftops or choosing to “do their business” near the buildings. “Why is it that if a liquor store is planning to open in a neighborhood, that the public has to be notified, but a concert can be planned to disrupt business without any public notification?” Griggs asked in her letter to Weber.
       A related issue for the OCCA board is what to do about the possibility of anyone seeking a permit to close off the avenue, regardless of the OCCA's wishes. In the current situation, “this happens to be a merchant in the area (Cagiao, who is actually vice president of the OCCA board), but it could have been anybody from anywhere,” Stovall said.

Westside Pioneer article