Despite tens of thousands of people flocking downtown for the Riverbend Festival, Greyfriar’s, a coffee shop on Broad Street, closes down about five hours earlier this week.
Because of previous years’ experiences of slow business during the week of the music festival, the shop closes at 5 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and at 6 p.m. instead of midnight on weekends.
“Even when we’re open, our business is cut in half,” said assistant manager Derek Higgins. “A lot of our regulars are scared off by the crowds and having to pay $10 to park.”
Staff Photo by Lori Yount -- Businesses affected by road closures during the Riverbend Festival use additional signage to direct patrons their way.
With road closures, higher priced parking and throngs of people limiting access to the area, some downtown businesses — and their patrons — have to change their routines.
At The Rush gym on Chestnut Street, members are hard-pressed to find parking for less than $10 after 4 p.m. because the parking garage owner doesn’t honor tickets validated by the gym as it does the rest of the year, said Grant Smith, assistant general manager.
“A lot of times, it’s busiest at night, after work,” he said. “It makes a difference. There’s no parking on the street.”
Mr. Smith said he suggests members work out before 4 p.m. or go to other Rush gyms during this week. Since most members are on contracts, he said it doesn’t affect business so much as how many people end up appearing for scheduled training sessions.
“Hopefully it picks up right after Riverbend,” Mr. Smith said.
Parking rate negotiations are up to each individual parking lot owner, said David Lambeck, vice president of marketing and client services for Republic, the parking management company for many downtown lots.
“(The owners) try to balance for normal users and what’s good for Riverbend,” he said. “It’s all based on supply and demand.... You see the place is swamped. It fills up the parking spaces. It just changes for those eight or 10 days.”
However, considerably more people downtown for the festival actually means less business for the Chattanooga Duck tours, owner Alex Moyers said.
“Usually, people are more Riverbend-minded,” he said.
But the festival set up along Riverside Drive doesn’t block the boat ramp the amphibious vehicles take into the Tennessee River — they just have to take the back way on land along M.L. King Boulevard to reach it, Mr. Moyers said.
“(Riverbend) impacts everybody,” he said. “But it’s off-set. There’s good and bad about everything.”
Rock Point Books on Broad Street has trimmed back evening hours, closing at 6 p.m. during Riverbend, only to expand summer hours next week to be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, manager Angela Bobbitt said. She said she’s uncertain whether the store will cut back hours during Riverbend next year, but there has been a slow-down in book and coffee sales since the festival started Friday.
But, Riverbend may not be the only factor at play.
“Since Riverbend started, it’s been hot,” Ms. Bobbitt said of heat indices reaching 100 degrees this weekend. “We usually see a drop when it’s hot.”
Mr. Higgins said his regular customers may be feeling the heat too.
“Or maybe it’s just too hot to want coffee,” he said.