Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

More is less when it comes to downtown concession stands

by John Halverson

May 26, 2011

Additions to our lakefront.

Signage.

And now concession stands.

Thereís always something that seems worthy until you look at the bigger picture.

The latest issue relates to whether concession stands should be allowed in downtown Lake Geneva. Those proposing the stands are sincere. One wants to sell gelato. The other is a church group. How can you be against gelato or churches?

No doubt those groups are upset the City Council and Plan Commission wonít OK their proposals. Thatís understandable. Things are always simpler when youíre inside an idea instead of looking at it objectively from the outside, with the bigger picture in mind.

In this case, the council and city Plan Commission made the right decision to turn down the requests.

Two business representatives made good points about not allowing the carts while speaking before the Plan Commission. Carts downtown would help create ďa carnival-likeĒ atmosphere, said one. One cart? Maybe not. But if you allow one, how could you stop more?

Already carts are allowed 12 days during the summer. That seems fair. Any more and you risk a cascade of problems.

In a city like Madison, food carts around the square add a certain ambiance. But thereís plenty of space, and even in Madison more begets more and a less than pristine appearance develops.

Add to that the inevitable litter that occurs when people are taking to the street with anything edible. Sure, that happens now. But concession stands would just exacerbate the problem.

And letís not forget the traffic flow. The downtown gets clogged enough in the summer. Adding a concession stand or two will just make it worse.

Another business person made the point that people pay good money to rent the downtown storefronts. Allowing carts with limited overheads to have the same advantage does seem a might unfair. Long-term downtown businesses spend money year-round, some take on red ink during the winter so they can flourish in the summer. A cart, which only operates during the summer, would have an unfair advantage. Filled storefronts are vital to an appealing downtown. The businesses there donít need any more challenges.

Alderman Tom Hartz, an architect in a different life, makes a good point about downtown character. We have to look beyond one or two carts at the downtown as a whole.

The downtown and our lakeshore are little eco-systems.

One or two things can knock them out of whack. And once something is allowed, itís hard to turn back the clock.

Halverson is the general manager of the Regional News.