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Businesses not satisfied with new Downtown Saturday Night

By Maggie Burnett
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 14, 2000
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Changes made to the downtown event do not impact local

Despite a recent re-evaluation of Tucson's Downtown Saturday Night, some local businesses are still noat stisfied with changes made to the program.

"I would guess Downtown Saturday Night is not really culturally significant to Tucson," said Raymon Flores, co-owner of El Charro Cafe, 311 N. Court Ave. "Tucson is missing something not geared towards skate boarders and riffraff." 

Every five years, the Tucson Arts District Partnership strategically re-assesses the downtown arts district area. According to the district's mission, the evaluation is to ensure vitality in the arts downtown.

"Every program is looked at to see if it is still serving the mission," said Mary Glenn, coordinator for Downtown Saturday Night. "Downtown Saturday Night is meant to be a showcase of what downtown is - the performing and visual arts." 

Still, businesses like El Charro, not located on Downtown Saturday Night's main drag - the Sixth Avenue and Congress Street area - still do not feel a direct impact from event's influx of visitors.

"We don 't have a booth (at Downtown Saturday Night) but we've been downtown for over 80 years. We're not seeing the same impact we used to see,"  Flores said. "There wouldn't even be a downtown business community without El Charro." 

Tension has also arisen in downtown business in relation to the type of people that now visit Downtown Saturday Night. Along with El Charro, several business managers and owners have said the event now draws a younger crowd rather than the older, affluent crowd of the past.

Staff at the Etherton Gallery, 135 S. 6th Ave., has decided not to remain open on Saturday nights due to a smaller amount of people coming through the gallery.

"Downtown Saturday Night is changing in terms of people. After awhile, it was not worth our time to stay open as a commercial gallery," said Jerre Johnston, manager of Etherton Gallery. "It's just a looking crowd, and we don't sell as much work."

This year is Downtown Saturday Night's 10th anniversary, and the Arts District board of directors, in conjunction with the National Arts Stabilization in Washington D.C., decided to enact a much more rigorous evaluation than in previous years.

Art galleries and restuarants are not the only venues concerned with the changes made to Downtown Saturday Night.

"Downtown Saturday Night changed from when is first started. It used to be like a family outing and now it's one extreme to the next," said Alex Skelton, bar manager at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. "We've started getting skate boarders. It's not as nice or fun as it used to be."

Still, not everyone attributes problems with Downtown Saturday Night to a younger, "skater" type of crowd.

"They're complaining about skate boarding? There's a lot of other stuff going on down here. We're not even open for Downtown Saturday Night," said L.J., owner of skate shop Shifty's, 222 E. Congress St. "If these businesses are complaining, they should target younger kids. That's where the money is. People could be doing worse stuff."

As part of the evaluation, Downtown Saturday Night is no longer scheduled for the first and third Saturday of every month.

The third Saturday of every month is now "The Third Saturday Craft Market," - geared towards the buying and selling of hand made goods from local dealers. The first Saturday will remain the designated time for Downtown Saturday Night.

"As a result of new changes, we realized we were spreading ourselves too thin having Downtown Saturday Night on the first and third Saturday of every month," Glenn said. "We felt it was important for Downtown Saturday Night and the Craft Market to have their own identities." 

Yet, coordinators for Downtown Saturday Night intend to continue expanding arts programs and introducing new, monthly themes to restore Downtown Saturday Night's previous popularity. Next month's theme will revolve around the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo.

"People go downtown and see what's happening, that's why Tucson likes it, and that's how it should stay," Glenn said. "It takes a lot to program a pedestrian event." 

The arts district was able to undergo a large-scale evaluation process this year due to funding from the National Arts Stabilization, which serves to alleviate problems art groups may face during renovation.

Downtown Saturday Night is a nonprofit event. The Tucson Arts District Partnership, along with loans and gifts from private donors, sponsors all events.

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