By Joyce M. Miles
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — More elbow room for vendors and visitors, less musical drift into residential neighborhoods and new, positive exposure for retail businesses on East Avenue.
These are the reported plusses of the Labatt Canal Concert Series' new venue, the city parking lot on Chestnut Street behind the YMCA and Lockport Public Library.
Since the first concert in the 2013 series this past Friday, feedback from business operators, concert goers and residents seems to compliment the new venue. After five summers, the series left the City Centre courtyard, between Main, Walnut, Locust and Pine streets, amid complaints from office and shop owners that the weekly shows were disrupting their operations.
Lisa Michaelsen, of Les Enfants children's clothier, East Avenue at Charles Street, suggested concert goers are more than welcome at that corner. As streams of visitors passed by Les Enfants, Donna Eick's Divine Catering, Caruso's Hair-Phenailia and Pallister House florist on their way to the show by Theory of a Deadman, some took the time to stop into the shops and check them out.
"We're excited about the concerts and the new venue. I think it's positive for our corner," Michaelsen said. "Anything the city can do to bring in people from the outside, and give people in the city something to do, is great."
Concert crowd size was loosely estimated at 10,000 to 12,000 people. Neither Michaelsen nor Beverly Federspiel, director of Lockport Public Library, noted any building safety or security issues after the crush of concert goers.
"Nothing exciting happened, which is good," Federspiel said. "There was no damage to the (library) building, which was our biggest concern. All in all, things went fine."
Patrons were somewhat inconvenienced by limited access to library parking. The city kept the paved area behind the building open until 3 p.m. while concert set-up went on around it, but patrons could only access the lot from Charles Street. Chestnut at Market Street was blocked off early Friday to limit vehicular traffic through the site.
Nonetheless, Federspiel said, "people were still coming in to the library. We had a steady crowd all day."
Concert concession vendors and show goers both told Mayor Michael Tucker that they like the new venue.
"We got a lot of feedback from vendors inside saying the new venue makes a world of difference; everybody's got more elbow room," he said. "People seemed more comfortable, in the VIP area, in the general area. A lot of people brought chairs ... ."
After the show, concert goers left the site quickly and easily. Police Chief Lawrence Eggert observed both pedestrian and vehicular travel away from the area was smooth. Officers did note a few "choke points" on Main Street that will be analyzed this week, with an eye on possible relief measures, he said.
Regarding noise complaints from residents on concert Friday nights, there were none. Something about the new venue seems to contain sound to the area, according to Eggert.
"Actually I was surprised at the low level of noise volume. You could barely hear that concert unless you were on top of it," he said. "A few blocks south, I didn't hear anything."
If conditions stay the same throughout the 2013 concert series, the venue change will shape up as a win-win, Eggert suggested.
"As of right now, it looks like we're doing pretty well. It looks like a good venue," he said.
Not every business owner at City Centre was happy to see the series leave its back yard, however. Chris Junke, co-owner of Lock 34 Bar & Grill, 80 Main St., noted a marked loss of Friday night business last week, compared against any concert Friday night last year.
"The dinner hour was great. During the concert, things were slow, but afterward things picked up again," he said. "We staffed (the restaurant) with 25 employees, the same as Fridays last year, but we'll probably reduce to 15 because the most volume (of customers) is there for only two hours."