Sundance village seen as competition along Main Street
Businesses worry setup during festival will siphon away sales
Jason Morgan is preparing Old Town Cellars for the lower Main Street business’s first Sundance Film Festival after having opened in March of 2016.
As the director of operations for the winery and wine bar, Morgan is responsible for ensuring Old Town Cellars is ready for the Sundance Film Festival, normally the busiest stretch of the year along Main Street. But as the Thursday opening of Sundance quickly approaches, there is concern about one of the festival’s new setups.
City Hall and festival organizers earlier reached an agreement allowing Sundance to create what is billed as the Festival Village on lower Main Street. The stretch of street will be closed to vehicles during the festival as well as a few days prior to Sundance’s opening to allow the construction of the Festival Village.
Although the Festival Village is expected to draw large crowds, some are worried that the setup will lead to lost sales as people stick to the Sundance space instead of heading into the stores and restaurants along lower Main Street.
Morgan said the Festival Village blueprints appear to greatly favor the temporary setup over the businesses that are located just steps away. The Festival Village will position portable toilets and a beer tent in the vicinity of Old Town Cellars, Morgan said. It is an “unprecedented scenario,” he said.
“Lower Main Street essentially turns into a back alley with Dumpsters, toilets and an HVAC,” Morgan said, using an acronym for a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, adding, “We rely on foot traffic and access to our main door.”
He is also displeased with the time that is planned for the construction and tear down of the Festival Village, which require a longer street closure than the Sundance run itself. Morgan, meanwhile, said Stella Artois, a Sundance beer sponsor, will have a presence in the Festival Village. The Stella Artois location will be a direct competitor, he said.
“Anytime there is an event on the street, people stay on the street,” Morgan said.
The Festival Village is one of the major additions to the Sundance lineup in 2017. Organizers see the location as a gathering place along Main Street, which already is buzzing during Sundance with festival-goers, celebrity gawkers and other revelers. Carmaker Acura is the sponsor of the Festival Village. A computer-generated image submitted to City Hall as the setup was approved shows a large banner hanging across lower Main Street marking the Festival Village location.
In December, as the Park City Council approved the Festival Village as part of wider changes to the overall Sundance operations, the setup on lower Main Street was described as a destination offering a variety of attractions. It will have a virtual reality experience, people will be given water bottles commemorating Sundance and concerts will be held. Hot beverages and Stella Artois will be available.
“We’re working directly with the lower Main Street merchants, as well as the city, in order to ensure that our local business are able to enjoy the experience provided by the Festival Village, as well as avoid any potential inconveniences,” Sundance organizers said in a prepared statement in response to an inquiry from The Park Record.
Park City officials plan to close lower Main Street to traffic between 7th Street and 9th Street at 10 a.m. on Sunday. The cross streets of 7th Street and 9th Street, essentially the borders of the Festival Village, will remain open to traffic throughout the festival. Jenny Diersen, a special events coordinator, said City Hall coordinated with the Historic Park City Alliance, an organization that represents businesses on or close to Main Street, as the plans were crafted. Officials also informed businesses on a door-to-door basis starting in November. Diersen said another round of door-to-door outreach was done on Wednesday.
There was not widespread chatter on Main Street or elsewhere in Park City as the setup was approved in late 2016. Morgan said he was not aware of the extent of the closure of lower Main Street until afterward.
“The frustration level is extremely high given the fact nobody ever came to talk to us,” Morgan said.
Another business along lower Main Street, Atticus Coffee & Tea House, is also critical of the Festival Village agreement. Randy Winzeler, who owns the business with his wife, said the construction and teardown of the Festival Village will be difficult.
“Eight days are essentially going to be a construction zone on lower Main Street,” Winzeler said.
He said coffee will be available at the Festival Village, leading to “direct competition” with Atticus Coffee & Tea House.
“Obviously, it’s pretty upsetting,” Winzeler said, adding, “I think it’s definitely going to hurt business.”
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