Main Street cover charges capped | ParkRecord.com

Main Street cover charges capped

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Fifty bucks should do it if someone wants to go nightclubbing on Main Street — at least to get in the door.

Worried that entrepreneurs could turn the popular shopping, dining and entertainment district into a rich-people-only hotspot, the Park City Council recently approved a new rule regulating places that serve alcohol.

The elected officials decided people should be allowed in those places without paying huge cover charges or owning real estate in exclusive subdivisions. They were concerned developers could open social spots in buildings on the street and then restrict entry to the people who live in their projects.

There was limited discussion before the City Council vote and the rule is not controversial. Some with interests on Main Street supported the measure, which they, like City Hall, say will ensure the street remains vibrant.

"It’s taking space, like the real-estate firms take, and makes it less of an attraction to the general public," says Ken Davis, who leads the Main Street merchants, describing the barred practice as "exclusionary."

Under the rule, City Hall will not issue a beer or liquor license in the Main Street area unless the public is allowed inside. The rule sets membership fees, or cover charges, at no more than $50. That price, the rule says, is "reasonable."

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Cover charges on Main Street rarely approach $50. On those nights, a well-known band or act is usually playing. Covers on New Year’s Eve at some places are steep compared to a typical night as well.

"It will help keep Main Street more accessible to the general public," says Mike Wong, a co-owner of The Sidecar, a nightclub in the Main Street Mall. "You definitely run the risk of alienating the general public."

He says exclusive spots like the ones the City Council targeted are OK elsewhere, like at the site of a development, but they do not fit on Main Street.

"I think it’s a victory for the city as far as maintaining a vibrant Main Street," Wong says.

In a report to Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council beforehand, Jonathan Weidenhamer, a City Hall planner who handles some economic-development issues, argues for the rule, saying the "unique character" of Main Street is important to Park City’s future. The private spaces, he says, could have threatened the street. Weidenhamer says people would have fewer choices on Main Street and City Hall might collect less money in sales tax.

"It could also change the culture of Main Street into a more elite area that is less inviting to the majority of our visitors, guests, and locals," he writes in the report.

The street is Park City’s most famous, with big crowds descending to dine, shop and party throughout the year. It is especially busy during the Sundance Film Festival, when some corporate interests rent high-profile space in an effort to generate buzz about an array of goods.

The real-estate interests, some renting space on Main Street to market their projects, see the street as a good investment. The crowds might be more apt to visit Main Street than the site of the development, they say, as they describe the benefits of the high-profile space.

The decision comes as the local government considers other policies on Main Street, including deliveries and trash hauling. There has been talk, meanwhile, about restricting real-estate interests from street-level space on Main Street, which, like the new rule regarding the beer and liquor licenses, is seen as a way to enliven the street.