In a work session prior to Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart suggested to Brian Farley, an event organizer, that the annual motorcycle-themed event be moved to Zinn Park.
In its formal meeting, the City Council postponed requests for a special-event alcohol permit and to close Noble Street next month for the event.
During the work session, Dianna Michaels, director of Spirit of Anniston, told the council that she emailed 55 downtown merchants about the event, and received a mix of responses.
Rumble on Noble, in its ninth year, draws an average of about 2,000 people each year to Noble Street, where organizers rope off the street between 10th and 14th streets and charge a $15 admission to the concerts, vendors and other events that take place during the rumble.
“We feel like it really affects greatly the downtown merchants,” Michaels told the council.
Jennie Preston of The Rabbit Hutch at 1026 Noble Street said Rumble on Noble is bad for her business.
“I am not for this event,” she said. “I never have been for this event. I have lived with this event because I have not had a choice.”
Preston said that because the event blocks off the street, it makes it difficult for her customers to get to her store. Other events such as the Noble Street Festival, she said, are a boost for business because although parking is scarce, the event promotes foot traffic. On the day of the rumble, she said Tuesday afternoon, “I might as well not even come in and turn on the lights and open for business.”
But for Damn Yankees’ David Mogil, the Saturday of Rumble on Noble is the best day all year for his restaurant at 919 Noble Street.
He said Tuesday afternoon that he believes the objection is because the event draws motorcyclists.
“It’s really sad that business always takes a second seat to a phony sense of self-righteousness in Anniston,” he said Tuesday afternoon.
“I just feel like they don’t want the bikers there,” Farley said after the meeting.
Preston told the council the event is not family-friendly and “brings the wrong kind of people downtown.”
Farley said the event is a boost to the local economy. People who attend the event, he said, tend to arrive in the Anniston area Thursday evening and stay throughout the weekend, staying in hotels in Anniston and Oxford, buying gas in the area, and eating in area restaurants. He said last year, Mt. Cheaha Harley-Davidson in Oxford, one of the event’s sponsors, sold eight motorcycles. The event, which according to organizers costs $30,000 to put on, uses local contractors for supplies ranging from portable toilets to fencing.
Randy Snyder, another organizer of the event, said three of the event’s four food vendors are local, and each year, the event gives a portion of its proceeds to a local charity. He also said that each year, the event holds a military tribute and the new Harley-Davidson models are showcased, driven in by wounded warriors or active military.
Snyder said Tuesday night that moving to Zinn Park wouldn’t be feasible.
“What they’re missing is the appeal of drawing people to the bars and restaurants on the street,” he said, noting attendees’ ability to wander in and out of local establishments. “The scenario being created we can’t recreate in Zinn Park.”
Farley also noted at the work session that organizers have already advertised the event and applied for a special event alcohol permit through the Alabama Beverage Control Board, something he wasn’t sure could be changed.
During the council’s work session, Stewart asked Steven Folks, director of Parks and Recreation, to check the availability of the park, which is open Aug. 24, the planned date of the event.
Folks said holding the event at Zinn Park would be much easier on his staff. He estimated his department probably spends between $4,000 and $8,000 in in-kind donations during the event.
“I would encourage you to look at that and consider it,” said Councilman Jay Jenkins told Farley.
The move to Zinn Park, he said, would be unlikely to hurt the bars business on those nights because attendees would probably still walk the short distance to Noble Street establishments such as Damn Yankees, Smoking Moose, the Peerless Grille and Saloon, and The Office.
Councilwoman Millie Harris said she felt the city needs to create a policy to coordinate events between the city and Spirit of Anniston.
“I would like to see us all work together and have some kind of procedure so we know what the other one’s doing,” she said.
In other business, the council:
— Authorized reimbursements to city officials incurred while traveling away from the city: $135.60 to Mary Motley while attending the Alabama Municipal Revenue Officers Summer Conference in Montgomery and $107.01 to Kevin Ashley while attending ICS in Opelika.
— Voted to raise fees that allow access to city facilities and services managed by the Parks and Recreation Department. PARD Director Steven Folks said the move raises fees at Cane Creek Golf Course and adds a $25 charge to reserve city parks.
— Approved an agreement with World Changers, a volunteer group that will conduct minor repairs for low-to-moderate income homeowners in the city. The city will provide $12,000 for World Changers to purchase supplies for the projects.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.