Park City implements changes for temporary businesses during Sundance
The aim is to minimize their impacts on surrounding businesses and festival-goers
City Hall is making some revisions to the script that plays out along Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival.
The City Council earlier this month voted unanimously to implement several amendments to the requirements for temporary businesses that pop up in the historic district during Sundance in an attempt to minimize the impact they have on surrounding businesses and festival-goers.
According to a staff report authored by Beth Bynan, a city business license specialist, the mass shuffling of storefronts that accompanies the festival each year causes a hectic and predictable scene.
After taking over large portions of Main Street to capitalize on the Sundance crowds, many temporary businesses — such as gifting suites and entertainment spaces — pack up and leave following the festival’s first weekend. The load outs, which are often not coordinated with the city, cause major disruptions and safety hazards during the busiest times of the day. It leaves the area looking more like a construction zone, Bynan wrote, than a vibrant film festival.
What they neglect to load out is also a problem. When they exit, the operations often leave behind heaps of trash and recyclables, the report states. Full-time businesses along Main Street, and the landlords that rented out their buildings to the temporary shops, are left footing the bill.
“These are kind of fly-by-night organizations that have their activity, and then they’re out the second it’s over,” Bynan said in an interview. “And it’s all hours of the day that they’re trying to leave. It creates a problem on Main Street.”
The frustration reached new levels during a particularly hectic Sundance earlier this year, causing the City Council to direct staffers this spring to explore ways to mitigate the negative effects temporary businesses cause. After months of work, staffers made several recommendations that will be put into effect during next year’s festival.
To obtain the Type 2 convention sales license required to operate at Sundance, temporary businesses will now have to pay: a $149 administrative fee for the approval process at City Hall; $100 for trash pick-up; and $45.58 to cover the cost of extra police enforcement during the festival. A tax that full-time businesses in the historic district pay for things like garbage collection and promotion through the Historic Park City Alliance will now also be assessed to temporary businesses.
Additionally, the businesses will have to abide by new loading regulations. Small-scale loading for things such as catering or linen service will be allowed during the day and evenings under a 15-minute maximum, while loading music equipment will be also be permitted at certain times and locations. Large-scale operations, however, won’t be allowed until the sixth day of the festival, and only during morning hours.
Bynan said officials won’t know the degree to which the amendments will improve the situation until the next festival in January. But they are designed to provide the best of both worlds: Temporary businesses will still be able to set up shop on Main Street — and landlords will continue to turn large profits by renting out their spaces — but the drama will be left to the film screenings.
“Up until now, it’s kind of been a free-for-all,” she said. “We’re just trying to put some parameters on when and where and how big. We’re hoping it’ll make a big difference.”
The effort comes as some Parkites continue to voice frustrations with the broad impacts — from increased traffic to slipping revenues for some businesses — special events like Sundance and the Park City Kimball Arts Festival cause each year. City Councilor Becca Gerber said the decision to implement the changes shows officials are taking the concerns seriously.
“Our events have really grown in town and become really popular,” she said. “… We’re just trying to find balance between our events, our business community and our residents. It’s difficult because we’re a small town — everything we do affects everyone here. It’s a perpetual struggle.”
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