Jeramey Jannene

It’s 11 p.m., Clear The Street

By - Jul 26th, 2010 10:05 pm
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Security clears the Brady Street Festival at 11 p.m., and for what purpose?

Security works to clear Brady Street at 11 p.m. on Saturday night, and for what purpose?

Milwaukee’s street festivals are fantastic. More so than even the city’s ethnic festivals held at the Henry Maier Festival Grounds, Milwaukee’s street festivals bring together a neighborhood and support the neighborhood’s businesses.  Having festival grounds on the lakefront dedicated to public events surely makes Milwaukee a great place to be on summer weekends. But it’s the street festivals that offer something truly unique. The public can party at the Henry Maier Festival Grounds nearly every weekend during the summer, but it’s rare that one can stand in the center of the road on Brady Street enjoying a cold beer from Trocadero or gelato from Peter Scorinto’s Bakery. The use of streets as festival grounds affords attendees a unique perspective of the neighborhood. Unobstructed by the roar of engines, thousands of attendees are free to take leisurely strolls exploring the booths of local artists and sampling the wares of local eateries. Unfortunately though, the party is cut off abruptly at 11 p.m. so the street can be opened for traffic.

There seems to be no rational reason to clear the street of people at 11 p.m.. It’s not as if cars and trucks have been backing up for hours, just waiting for the opportunity to gun it down the open road. There is no late-night rush of passengers that would force MCTS to ask for the streets to be cleared so bus detours can be canceled. Nor is it that the fun is suddenly stopping elsewhere, as bars are at least three hours away from close and an increasing number of restaurants are open late in Milwaukee.

Are there misguided reasons for opening the streets at what appears to be a fairly arbitrary number? Possibly. Be it noise, crowd control, or fears of drunk driving, there are a number of reasons it’s possible that the streets are  cleared starting at 11 p.m., but for each there is a solution.

If the idea is to clear the streets at 11 p.m. to quiet the neighborhood (which seems like an arbitrary time that is probably too late to please neighbors and too early to please festival attendees), it’s just as easy to achieve that by cutting off live bands at 11 p.m. Reducing the area of festival by opening a portion of the street in more residential areas that may help (think the west end of Brady Street), although that simply might replace the noise of chatter with the noise of rumbling motorcycles and accelerating cars.

The idea of clearing the streets at 11 p.m. as a way to ensure public safety by controlling crowds seems misguided. It’s pretty clear that streets filled with people are equally as safe (or dangerous) at 10:59 as they are at 11:01. If overcrowding is a serious concern, it might be best to expand the area of closed streets as opposed to clearing out people who don’t want to leave. The current strategy of using police and festival staff to order people to move only increases the chance that a dangerous incident might occur, as area taverns quickly become overcrowded. As I’ve witnessed on multiple occasions at Bastille Days, clearing the streets at 11 p.m. (which unlike bar time is a time people aren’t predisposed to respect) has led to completely avoidable conflicts with event attendees, MPD officers, and event security.

The notion that streets are cleared at 11 p.m. to reduce drunk driving is perhaps the most misguided of any of the reasons given for street opening. If one really wanted to prevent drunk driving (and couldn’t simply get rid of the cars) they would remove the alcohol and keep the people until they sobered up. Removing the booze and keeping the people is the exact thing Miller Park and the Bradley Center attempt to do by cutting off drink sales before the ends of the game. Street festivals could implement a similar policy by removing street liquor sales, but still allowing bars to sell drinks (and people to bring them back out onto the street). The bars would simply be so crowded (as they are anyway after 11 p.m. during a festival even with all the people that leave) that the flow of liquor would be greatly reduced.

The best way to reduce conflict, bring revenue in to festival promoters and area businesses, and encourage people to have a good time is to begin the process of re-opening the streets at 2:30 a.m. Bar time, as 2:30’s affectionately known on Friday and Saturday nights, is a time most people are predisposed to clear out. Live music can certainly cut out well before that to quiet the extended neighborhood, but there isn’t a reason people need to be pushed to the sidewalk or inside a tavern before that. Limiting outdoor alcohol sales might be necessary to ease public safety concerns and expedite crowd dispersal as bar close draws near, but it’s misguided to push the people out. Working to open streets for a couple of cars to use them at an arbitrary time late in the night simply cuts off the unique experience that street festivals provide.

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11 thoughts on “It’s 11 p.m., Clear The Street”

  1. Jeff Jordan says:

    I agree that clearing the streets at 11:00 is probably not the best practice. I also agree that a lot of the neighbors issues would be solved if the bands would quit playing at 11:00 (and that includes the recorded music they like to play during set up and tear down.)
    Most of the street festivals are once per year events that do promote the neighborhood and the business in them. Once per year is not a huge problem for most neighbors, who for the most part, party on with the guests.
    I would ask is that people respect the private property, by parking where they are suppose to, not using the garden as a bathroom and remember when you yell at your buddy down the street all of us can hear you and we don’t need your crude and vulgar language to enjoy you and ourselves.
    In other worlds, use a little common sense and respect the neighborhood your visiting

  2. Dan Knauss says:

    Which festivals are you talking about? A lot of festivals in residential neighborhoods end pretty early–5, 6, 7pm–or don’t have bands playing too late. Maybe it depends what part of the city you’re talking about, and if the particular festival has a history of problems.

    Maybe they’re in a hurry to bring in street sweepers and go home, but I think you’re right when it comes to downtown events where there are not a lot of residences to be disturbed. If people aren’t breaking any laws, and the bars are open legally, trying to clear the streets will cause conflicts. Is there a legal basis for this practice, or do the police just do it? Is it at the request of aldermen or a standing policy? Places like Brady Street probably have enough complaining neighbors to want an early end time.

    If this just pushes people into bars, that’s not the greatest solution. When the streets were cleared at Bastille Days, at least one of the nearby bars swelled to its physical capacity, which had to be way beyond their legal capacity. That’s fun as long as no one gets hurt, but having to body surf to get to the bar or bathroom isn’t really safe.

  3. Jeramey Jannene says:

    The festivals I’ve had first-hand closing experience with are Summer Solstice on North Avenue, Riversplash, Summer Sizzle in the Third Ward, Brady Street Festival, and Bastille Days. I’ve been at Locust Street Festival, but never late enough to know when it shuts down (although I assume it’s 11 p.m.).

    I’ve tried to ask security guards and police why the streets must be opened, and the most frequent answer I get is “that’s the rule.” I’ve never been able to find the rule, so I was hoping this post might bring it to light.

  4. Dan Knauss says:

    No, Locust fest ends at 8pm. Same for the other Riverwest fests and Garfield Days.

  5. Dave Reid says:

    The ones that hit close to home are when they clear the park out at 9pm for Jazz, on occasion literally clearing the park with squad cars and horses, despite nothing going on… And Bastille Days where they jam everyone on to the sidewalk for no apparent reason.

  6. GT says:

    There is likely a belief that the police shift would be better spent responding to calls for service related to crimes elsewhere in the city. Personally, I would rather have the police force available to respond to a serious issue than monitoring a street fest.

    One condition of approval for any street fest is that the police be present, if the request is made to the police district to staff an event (by an alderman or event organizer), certainly a condition of staffing an event must be an assured end time.

  7. LAK says:

    If you happened to live on the East Side anywhere near UWM, you might have a different opinion of this action. Almost every weekend (Weds through Sat night and sometimes Sundays) from late spring to mid fall, drunken revelers pass our house, urinating on our our neighbor’s driveways, off their porches at parties–never BTW at 10 or 10:30, or even 11 as they aren’t drunk enough yet, but more like midnight, or later. They leave their trash on neighboring lawns, continue their revelry down the street, yelling or fighting sometimes overturning garbage and recycling cans for neighbors to clean up the next morning. The 11 CTS action is meant to be preventative, and reduce for those people who actually live in these neighborhoods from experiencing more vandalism, noise pollution, problems from mobs of people drinking in an uncontrolled environment, etc. It is also being done to provide quiet enjoyment to families, working professionals and seniors living in these neighborhoods, not just visiting for an evening. As the night gets later and the alcohol consumption increases, I can assure you the risk of problems of every type escalates.

  8. Keith Prochnow says:

    Two days ago, I left a comment quoting a qualified eye-witness account largely refuting Jeramey’s account of what went on after 11:00 the night of the Brady Street Festival. Why have you not posted my comment?

    I repeat, with a few additional facts:
    —————————————————————————
    I forwarded Jeramey’s story to a friend who is not only an on-street merchant who had an employee staffing tables on the sidewalk, but had a booth out in the middle of the street, too. She is also an organizer of the event, in her capacity of Director of the Brady Street BID and therefore responsibile for how things went that night. In addition, she is a Director (or perhaps former Director) of the Brady Street Area Assoc., as am I (former Director). Her response:

    *Whoever wrote this article obviously was NOT on the street at 11 pm. I was. The street is not suddenly cleared and vehicles come rushing in. I was still breaking down my booth at 11pm. I didn’t see a vehicle on the street until 1:30 am and that one had snuck thru on a side street, only to find that Brady was still closed. The stages & tents weren’t even completely removed until about 3:00am. I watched it. This article is not accurate.*

    She didn’t see a vehicle on the street until 1:30 and that was a “sneaker.” Cars could not pass on the street until about 3:00 because stages and tents were still in place. What a disparity! Are you sure you were there, Jeramey? Maybe you were really just reporting second hand complaints?
    —————————————————————————

  9. Dave Reid says:

    @Keith as I never saw your comment in question, nor received the automated email saying one came in, likely there was some sort of error (I also checked the spam filter and didn’t see it there).

    Quite frankly, Jeramey and I aren’t afraid to post anyone’s comments, as I know we want to hear from more people not less.

    I’d add that the point of the article is why close festivals at 11pm, in general not specific to the events of that particular festival or night.

    Yes Brady St Fest was part of the article, as the photo shows security clearing people, but for example, the article points out that during Bastille Days “As I’ve witnessed on multiple occasions at Bastille Days, clearing the streets at 11 p.m. (which unlike bar time is a time people aren’t predisposed to respect) has led to completely avoidable conflicts with event attendees, MPD officers, and event security.”.

    I’ve experienced this multiple times as well at Bastille Days (yearly actually), and they certainly do clear the streets of people forcing crowds onto the sidewalks and for some reason re-open it up to automobile traffic.

    Anyhow, I’m sure Jeramey will have plenty to say…

  10. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Keith

    Sorry for your problem posting a comment. We post every comment that isn’t clearly spam or slander.

    I was certainly there, as the photo proves (and my lighter wallet). There was a golf cart going back and forth blaring a megaphone siren, encouraging people to clear the road. I left Brady Street around midnight that night, and didn’t notice when traffic actually returned. The street clearing did start a few minutes after 11. The point isn’t that cars return right away, but that the streets are cleared with that apparent intention.

    My greater point is that if cars did not return to the street until 1:30 or 3, why kick the people off the street at 11? If the area they’re occupying needs to be reduced, do that. If not just let them be while stage removal goes on.

    In no way am I criticizing Brady Street Festival, or any festival. I love to attend them. The policy of clearing the people off the street at 11 to me just seems misguided. If there is a need for it, I can’t figure it out, but every festival seems to observe it.

    The Bastille Days examples I referenced do include cars returning before midnight.

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