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Friday, June 27, 2014

Booth Reservations, Designated Music Areas Could Be Next for Last Thursday

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, Jun 27, 2014 at 3:33 PM

last_thursday_character.jpg

First it was an hour shorter—shutting down at 9 pm rather than 10 last month. Then, last night, Alberta's Last Thursday was quieter than it has been, perhaps, in years, as Mayor Charlie Hales' office unrolled focused (albeit more lenient than city law decrees) noise enforcement at the 17 year old street fair.

The new measures have gone a long way, mayoral staffers say, to toning down the boisterous summer event—moving it away from the raucous bacchanalia neighbors complain it's become. But there's more on the way.

Back in May, Hales' staff promised to enact permits for Last Thursday vendors for the first time in the event's history. And the city will ask cops—who've always taken a somewhat-permissive attitude to the event—to rein in alcohol and marijuana infractions. But Chad Stover, a project manager in Hales' office, says he's toying with even more steps. The mayor's office is considering a strategy that would pre-empt musicians from setting up wherever they please, as has happened for years. The festival's many bands, DJs, teenage rap groups, and solo acts sometimes are forced to play over each other or set up uncomfortably close to homes, according to Stover.

"At least can strategize where musicians are," he says. "I think that would be wise. I think that would be in the musicians' interest."

And the mayor's office is thinking about ending the first-come-first-served system that's been a tenet of Last Thursday. Currently, vendors, artists, musicians and others are able to set up shop wherever they can find an open space. Stover says the mayor's office wants to look into a reservations system like other Portland street fairs.

"That might make more sense and be better for vendors as a whole," says Stover.

Were this last year, Hales' could have expected outsize vocal dismay. After a volunteer group coordinating Last Thursday resigned in protest last June, Hales proposed many of the same measures he's enacting this year, before pulling back. This time around, the mayor's office hasn't seen the pushback that engendered bitter feelings in 2013.

Last Thursday, long revered (and, by some, reviled) as a quintessentially Portland approach to street fairs, is becoming more similar to Portland's other festivals each month. To complete that circle, the city needs to implement a permit system, and convince a local nonprofit institution to take over coordination. Stover estimates Portland subsidized Last Thursday to the tune of $75,000-80,000 last year.

In May, Hales' spokesman Dana Haynes told the Mercury a permit system could be in place by July, but it's not clear that will occur. According to Stover, the city's most focused on "getting Last Thursday to a good place."

"I think that cost recovery is a concern, and I think we should still consider moving down that path," he says. "First, let's get it to what people would like to see."

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