Store owners may want heavy foot traffic, but Riverbend Festival-sized footprints mean adjustments for event organizers and crossed fingers for owners of new eateries on the riverfront.
"Riverbend is a great event for the city, and the fact that we’re here and close I hope would be a plus for our business," said Rob Gentry, owner of The Blue Plate restaurant on Chestnut Street. "But without having been through one, I couldn’t tell you how it’s going impact our business."
The Blue Plate sits next to the Chattanooga Green and will be near the Covista Stage during the annual nine-day festival that draws tens of thousands of music lovers to the waterfront each June.
The Blue Plate, Hennen’s and Cold Stone Creamery will all be experiencing their first Riverbend, which starts Friday. Business owners said they are working with Friends of the Festival, the group behind Riverbend, to ensure their interests aren’t drowned out by the concerts. And the businesses are banking on drawing some of the Riverbend crowd. The Blue Plate is charging $125 to reserve a table on its patio during the festival. Mr. Gentry said the response has been good, with many regulars making reservations.
Cold Stone Creamery will stay open one hour later, make more ice cream, hire security and add extra staff, owner Beth Collom said.
"From noon to four we’re going to take a hit. From four to midnight it’s going to be gangbusters," Mrs. Collom said.
One concern for Cold Stone Creamery is access, she said.
"Whenever the city starts blocking roads, we start losing business," she said.
Some business owners said their fears were alleviated during meetings with Friends of the Festival. This year’s Riverbend layout will keep sidewalks open around River Pier Landing, the building that houses the three businesses and fulltime residents. Riverbend also will provide signs so customers know they are still open, and festival pins will not be needed for access to the businesses.
"(During events) in the past, people didn’t realize we’re open, and they’re going to help us with that," Mrs. Collom said.
Tim Hennen, owner of Hennen’s, said the Riverbend crowds may still keep some regulars away. "Hopefully, the added thousands will make up for it," he said.
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