Friday, April 23, 2010

Bring people, not competition

The idea of a "village square" atmosphere in the Ketchum space being discussed is a good one. But the debate over outdoor food stalls is ludicrous.

It's been my understanding that the food stalls idea came from a respected citizen with European sensibilities, whose thinking is that a Ketchum "place" or "piazza" would draw pedestrian traffic from locals and tourists alike—if it had food stalls in lieu of the cafes that surround most of the central village spaces in French and Italian villages.

A nice idea, but impractical here for several obvious economic and legal reasons. First, our restaurants are already struggling to stay alive in this economy—they don't need competition from street vendors. Secondly, such vendors would likely be seasonal, and who would ensure that their "stalls" wouldn't be tacky temporary constructions?

State liquor laws are another issue that hasn't been fully addressed in the debate so far, although our local police indicate no alcohol sales can be licensed. A glass of rose on a sunny day is an unlikely prospect.

Getting pedestrian traffic into the city core is an admirable concept, but there are other attractions besides paper-plate food and drinks in plastic cups to achieve that. A suggested carousel (delightfully European) in the space now occupied by an ugly wooden shed selling ice-cream would be a wonderful summer addition for families, and it could be replaced in winter with a small portable ice-rink. Or perhaps an all-season gazebo-like band-stand for musical groups. More park benches for walkers and shoppers to rest on would be helpful and welcoming.

God forbid I use Aspen as an example, but the heart of their old mining town is a created pedestrian area that draws people to its shops and restaurants, and does so without street vendors or food stalls.

Few object to our warm-weather weekly markets, which add color to the town and variety to our food shopping. However, they don't compete with restaurants—only with Atkinsons', which can hold its own.

Our nearby hard-working and accomplished restaurateurs would welcome a livelier atmosphere in our "village," but let's help them by increasing their tourist business, not by adding competition from the sale of curbside deli-food and drinks.

Tim Ryan


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