Downtown restaurants, bars urge Manchester aldermen to nix summer Hanover Street 'block parties'
The managers of 16 establishments have signed a petition against the Hanover Street closure, which began as a pilot program last summer and was hailed by restaurants and other businesses on the street as a great success. Under the plan, a block and a half of the street, from Chestnut Street to Nutfield Lane, would be closed to traffic to make way for more outdoor seating, live music and other entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings.
XO has been in the news recently over a controversial loan from the Manchester Development Corporation that a couple of aldermen have likened to a "bailout." A large majority of the aldermen voted to approve the loan.
Ed Sekenski, a co-owner of Doogie's Bar and Grill on Manchester Street, told the aldermen last week that his business and neighboring establishments were affected because parking spaces on the street were eliminated as part of the Hanover closure.
Tiffany Shepard, the manager at Penuche's on Hanover, said she believed the closure brought more people into downtown. "If anything it should be good for their businesses," she said.
The restaurants on Hanover Street, including Penuche's, Hooked, and the Ignite Bar and Grille, have estimated that they saw a 20 to 30 percent increase in business last year during the summer months, offsetting the decline that typically occurs at that time.
Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long, who has been a strong proponent of the plan, said he "doesn't understand" the opposition. "It's a free market. You should be encouraging businesses to prosper," he said. "People hear someone playing saxophone, piano, they're going to walk by. The idea is to get foot-traffic in front of the businesses."
John Paolini, the owner of Piccola Italia, on Elm Street, said the "block party" had the effect of diverting customers from his restaurant and others in the vicinity.
Piccola Italia opened 12 years ago, before the restaurant boom, and Paolini noted that he often donated food for civic causes, including last week for an event at Central High School.