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Revenue Down 30 Percent Since Street Closures, Old Town Businesses Say

Friday, September 12, 2014


Old Town/China Town businesses say their margins are down as much as 30 percent since the city-imposed weekend street closures in 2012.

Dan Lenzen, spokesperson for the Old Town Hospitality Group, a coalition of 30 businesses in the neighborhood, said businesses located within the enclosure area are reporting a drop in business anywhere between 20 and 30 percent.

The Old Town Entertainment District, a section of town just north of Burnside that's closed off weekend nights, was created as a pilot project in December 2012. The district closes the blocks between Northwest 2nd and 4th avenues from West Burnside to Northwest Everett  Street between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

“At first, it was bad news, we were down,” said Walter Cole, owner and performer at Darcelle XV, a 47-year-old Old Town drag club. 

Luckily, Darcelle’s attracts plenty of tourists, he said.

“For local folks before the tourist season, before summer hit, it was pretty bad,” Cole said.

James Leong, a cook at House of Louie, said the street closure has been bad for restaurants like his. House of Louie has been at its current location in Old Town for 28 years.

“It's good for some, bad for some,” Leong said. Restaurants, he said, by and large are in the latter category.

The city closed the streets because of safety concerns in a neighborhood where nightclub crowds often spill out onto sidewalks and drunken revelers can often wander into the street. 

Police data from from the first seven months of 2012, 2013 and 2014 show a 30 percent drop in overall offenses in and adjacent to Old Town since the closures were instituted. 

  • Assaults down 72 percent
  • Liquor law violations down 72 percent 
  • Disorderly conduct down 27 percent

DUII arrests went up slightly in 2013 from seven to eight. So far this year, there's been just one DUII arrest in the entertainment zone.

Business Kept Out of the Loop?

Jessie Burke is preparing to open The Society Hotel at Northwest 3rd Avenue and Davis Street.

Burke said local businesses were concerned the city didn't seek their input before creating the pilot project. Burke also owns Posies Bakery in North Portland and said there’s a big difference in the way the two neighborhoods operate. 

“In [North Portland] in particular, the businesses really dictated everything that happened,” Burke said. ”In Old Town, the city just tells you what's going to happen.”

Chad Stover, a project manager with Mayor Charlie Hales's office, said the city has convened its own street closure advisory committee. The group includes several business owners and has been meeting for the last 10 months, according to Stover. 

“I think they're going to move fast,” Stover said. He's received a package of recommendations from the Old Town Hospitality Group, and said the city's Street Closure Advisory Committee will also be producing a number of recommendations that he'll submit to Hales. 

The hospitality group hopes the street closures will be replaced with more permanent changes. They'd like to see wider sidewalks, bike lanes and more stop signs. The group has also drafted a set of best practices for better regulation of club behavior, including better responses to fights and incidents in clubs. 

Lenzen said his group is hoping their recommendations will encourage more storefronts and daytime businesses in the neighborhood. He’s optimistic that the area can still bounce back and even thrive.

“We want to make people be able to have storefronts,” Lenzen said. “That can happen almost immediately.”

Homepage photo:James Leong, rings up customer: All photos by Betony Mezaros


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